Leonard McComb RA, Sgt. Bert Bowers

Sgt. Bert Bowers, 1991

Leonard McComb RA (1930 - 2018)

RA Collection: Art

Dressed in the iconic red uniform of the Chelsea Pensioners, former soldier Bert Bowers looks directly at us with an intense gaze. With the ‘R.H.’ of the Royal Hospital Chelsea emblazoned on his cap, he wears two medals awarded for service during the Second World War. The three stripes on his sleeve identify Bowers’ rank as Sergeant.

McComb captures the dignity of the soldier, sitting just as upright in his chair as he would once have been on parade.

The depiction of an old soldier has a resonance in 18th Century 'fancy' pictures as this kind of subject was popular. The experience and hardship of a soldier's life was believed to be etched on their face, and could therefore provide a kind of generic type that artists could transform into ancient prophets or patriarchs in historical subjects.

In this work the intensity of the sitter's gaze and the dominance of the red jacket is matched by the dense touches of line and colour that play across the surface of the painting giving a luminosity and energy which reflects the indomitable spirit of the soldier.The portrait was painted in 20 sittings over a period of 5 months.

Object details

Sgt. Bert Bowers
Leonard McComb RA (1930 - 2018)
Object type
Copyright owner
Oil on canvas

1400 mm x 914 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by Leonard McComb RA accepted 1992

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