Harry Bowden

artist artwork
Harry Bowden (1907-1965)
A native of California, Harry Bowden began his art studies at the Los Angeles Art Institute and later worked in commercial advertising.Between 1928 and 1931, Bowden divided his time between the National Academy of Design, the Art Students League in New York, and the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles.He soon became dissatisfied with academic training, saying "It made art too much of a craft.You win a prize and pretty soon you have a home in the country and it becomes a routine business."
In 1931, after a summer class with Hans Hofmann at the University of California at Berkeley, Bowden determined to pursue painting seriously.He made his way to New York working as a petty officer on a merchant ship.By 1934 he was again studying with Hofmann.The following year he became one of Hofmann's assistants and was friendly with George McNeil, Albert Swinden, Wilfrid Zogbaum, Ad Reinhardt, and Willem de Kooning.In 1937 and 1938, he painted two murals for the Williamsburg Housing Project.Bowden's New York work prior to 1940 reflects his fascination with a broad range of abstract themes, some of which, like Untitled: Nude, have a figurative basis, while others, as Number 47 (Untitled Abstraction), avoid reference to recognizable elements.Throughout his work from these years, however, runs evidence of Hofmann's teachings and an abiding interest in Cubism.
In New York, Bowden achieved recognition through exhibitions of his paintings at the nonprofit Artists' Gallery (1938--46), the Egan Gallery, the Reinhardt Gallery, and the New School for Social Research. His fashion and commercial photography was also well received. In 1942, after the United States entered World War II, Bowden returned to California to become a ship fitter. Although he continued to show in New York, and periodically visited there, Sausalito became his permanent home.
Following the war, photography again became an important part of his life.From the mid 1950s until his premature death of a heart attack in 1965, he concentrated in both photography and painting, on the figure.An admirer of Edward Weston, of whom he made an unfinished film called "Wildcat Hill Revisited," perhaps Bowden remains best known for photographs of sensual female nudes in landscape settings and portraits of jazz musicians, writers, and other painters.

Smithsonian American Art Museum