Sir Frank Bowling OBE RA (b.1934, British Guiana) lives and works in London, UK.
Over the course of six decades, Frank Bowling has relentlessly pursued a practice which boldly expands the possibilities and properties of paint. Ambitious in scale and scope, his dynamic engagement with the materiality of his chosen medium, and its evolution in the broad sweep of art history, has resulted in paintings of unparalleled originality and power. Bowling has been hailed as one of the foremost British artists of his generation.
Bowling moved from Guyana to London in 1953. He won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in 1959 and graduated in 1962 with a silver medal for painting. By the early 1960s, he was recognized as an assured force in London’s art scene. During this period, his highly individual language of painting, which emerged from expressionistic figuration and pop art, encompassed autobiographical elements and the artist’s socio-political concerns. A major reorientation in Bowling’s practice came in 1966 when he relocated from London to New York, at a time when the artistic scene was divided along lines of formalism and politics. In New York, Bowling pushed his work in new directions. He was a contributing editor for Arts Magazine from 1969 to 1972 and held teaching positions at many institutions, including lectureships at the University of Reading (until 1967); Columbia University, New York (until 1969); Rutgers (until 1970); and Massachusetts College of Art, Boston (1970–1).
In 2005, Bowling became the first black artist to be elected to the Royal Academy of Arts and in 2011, was elected a Senior Royal Academician. In 2008 he was awarded an OBE for his services to art and received a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in October 2020. Recently, he was awarded the 2022 Wolfgang Hahn Prize by the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig.
Bowling’s work has been exhibited internationally. In 2017, a major museum exhibition of Bowling’s painting from 1967 to 1989 was held at Haus der Kunst in Munich, which toured to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin (2018) and the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates (2018). Bowling’s hugely successful Tate Britain retrospective was held in 2019 and in 2021, the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol held Land of Many Waters, a major exhibition showcasing work from the last decade. The following year, Bowling showcased his sculptural work at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery in London, and opened a major show, Frank Bowling’s Americas, at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The MFA exhibition toured to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2023.
Born: 1934 in Bartica, Essequibo, British Guyana
Elected RA: 25 May 2005
Elected Senior RA: 1 October 2011
Preferred media: Painting