Self portrait

Stella Bowencirca. 1934

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery
Canberra, Australia

Stella Bowen (1893–1947), artist and writer, was born in Adelaide and was in her teens when she persuaded her mother to permit her to take art lessons. She began studying under Margaret Preston at the School of Design around 1910. Following her mother’s death in 1913, Bowen decided to leave Adelaide – a place she later described as ‘a queer little backwater of intellectual timidity’ – and pursue a career as an artist in Europe. She arrived in London in 1914, later enrolling at the Westminster School of Art and becoming part of a circle of artists and writers that included TS Eliot, Ezra Pound and WB Yeats. She met the English novelist Ford Madox Ford in 1917 and began a relationship with him that lasted nine years during which her own work was often accorded second place to Ford’s. Their daughter, Julia, was born in 1920. In France from 1922, Bowen painted landscapes and portraits of friends and family, becoming dependent on her painting for an income when her relationship with Ford ended. Bowen travelled to the USA in 1932, completing a number of portrait commissions there before returning to Europe and spending the remainder of the decade eking out a living with painting, reviewing and teaching in England and France. Her memoir, Drawn from life, appeared in 1941. In 1944, she became the second woman appointed an official war artist and was tasked with depicting the activities of the RAAF in England and the return of prisoners of war from Germany. In this role, Bowen produced a total of forty-six works, including Bomber Crew (1944), a group portrait completed from sketches she made prior to the seven-strong crew’s departure on a mission from which six men did not return. Her last commission as a war artist was a depiction of George VI saluting troops on Victory Day in London in 1946. Bowen was gravely ill with cancer when she completed the painting in 1947. Wishing to return to Australia but lacking her fare, she sought, unsuccessfully, to be repatriated on a troop ship. Bowen died in England in October 1947.


  • Title: Self portrait
  • Creator: Stella Bowen
  • Creator Lifespan: 1893 - 1947
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Date Created: circa. 1934
  • Physical Dimensions: w39.1 x h49.5 cm (Support)
  • Provenance: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
  • Type: Paintings
  • External Link: Further information
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps