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Stella Bowen

Tarntanya Wama (Park 26)

Stella Bowen Park is named in honour of this accomplished portrait painter and war artist.

photo-icon Photograph courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

Esther Gwendolyn (Stella) Bowen was born in North Adelaide in 1893 where she lived with her family in a large two-storey family home in Mills Terrace on the edge of the Adelaide Park Lands.

Her lifelong love of art began when she was a child. She studied at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts where she was influenced by innovative early modernist painter Margaret Preston.

In 1914, with an allowance from her late parents’ estate Bowen sailed to England and continued her art studies at the Westminster School of Art under Walter Sickert. Bowen’s relationship with the love of her life, English writer Ford Madox Ford, soon found her at the centre of artistic circles in England and Europe that included Ezra Pound, Edith Sitwell, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and TS Eliot.

In 1944, Bowen became the second woman appointed as an official war artist by the Australian Government to depict the activities of the RAAF in England and the return of prisoners of war from Germany. Appointed to the honorary rank of Captain, she completed forty-six paintings and drawings for the Australian War Memorial during her twenty months in this role. These remarkable war portraits reveal her compositional, stylistic and technical skills in capturing the spirit and emotion of her subjects.

Bowen maintained a lifelong devotion to art and her artistic vision remained individual and personal, with her preference for the figurative, and particularly for portraiture and interiors. Her paintings are held in public and private collections throughout Australia including the Art Gallery of South Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, and the Australian War Memorial.

Although she never returned to Australia Stella Bowen is acclaimed as a significant national artist.

She died in London in October 1947 aged 54 years.

City of Adelaide acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today. We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal Language Groups and other First Nations.

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