In Memory of Sir Alan Bowness (1928-2021)

In Memory of Sir Alan Bowness (1928-2021) 

We were sad to learn of the death on 1st March 2021 of Sir Alan Bowness, who had a long and fruitful association with Lund Humphries.

In the early 1960s, Alan Bowness became an informal editorial adviser to Lund Humphries and a regular author, contributing to the development of a growing programme of monographs and catalogues on contemporary artists in the period following the death in 1959 of Lund Humphries chairman Peter Gregory. It was a role in which Alan was to continue for nearly 40 years. He provided Lund Humphries with an essential link to his extensive art-world contacts, as well as contributing insightful essays, introductions and forewords to many Lund Humphries books, but he also undertook much of the behind-the-scenes documentation of artists’ catalogues – the invisible editorial work which was a crucial element of those early publications. Despite an increasingly full professional life, he was unfailingly punctual in the delivery of his texts, which inevitably arrived written in his distinctive manuscript hand.



In about 1963, Alan took over from David Sylvester the editorship of the Henry Moore Complete Sculpture Catalogue (the six-volume catalogue raisonné of Moore’s sculpture which had evolved from Lund Humphries’ 1944 volume on Moore), compiling Volumes 3 to 6, and during the 1960s and early 1970s he wrote or edited for Lund Humphries the first monographs on painters William Scott, Alan Davie and Ivon Hitchens. His catalogue of the Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69 was published by Lund Humphries in 1971.



While Director of The Henry Moore Foundation, Alan initiated the British Sculptors and Sculpture series, co-published by Lund Humphries and the Foundation between 1991 and 2015, and wrote a volume for the series himself on the sculpture and drawings of Bernard Meadows, published in 1995.

Alan’s writing on art and artists was pithy, perceptive and thought-provoking. Reproduced below are a few short extracts from some of the many texts which he wrote for Lund Humphries between the early 1960s and the late 1990s.


-- Lucy Myers, Managing Director




On William Scott:

The value of William Scott’s painting, as I see it, is that it celebrates certain human qualities – or if you prefer, an attitude to life – that the artist himself admires and would have us admire. These qualities are embodied in the paintings themselves, so that when we look at the works of art, we are made aware of feelings that the artist wants to communicate. It is a half-unconscious reaction, lying too deep for words, and none the worse for being so.

-- From Introduction to William Scott: Paintings, 1964



On Alan Davie:

Davie’s work is a confession, a declaration, a personal search for illumination: that it has a relevance beyond himself is for the artist a happy accident. He is not concerned with self-expression, nor with communication, nor with the depiction of reality, although one might say that the search for reality provides the motivation of his art. Painting is for him a symbolic expression of life itself; and life a search for the unknown and the seemingly impossible.

-- From ‘Notes on the Paintings of Alan Davie’ in Alan Davie, 1967



On Bernard Meadows:

In his work Meadows has been obsessed with the representation of fear, first with frightened birds, and then with frightening armed figures. It is only in the latter part of his long career that the mood changes, and a more sensuous, erotic element invades the sculptures and drawings, but even then apprehension is not far away.

-- From ‘Meadows and “the Geometry of Fear”’ in Bernard Meadows: Sculpture and Drawings, 1995



On Herbert Read:

Read was a great communicator, and an activist, who wanted to change people’s ideas and make things happen. He espoused a large number of causes, promoted them by his writing and lecturing, and, by and large, saw them through to success. His view of modern art, as expressed first in Art Now (1933) and outrageously revolutionary in the England of the early thirties, was to become the orthodoxy. […] Discovering the range and eloquence of his writing was a personal education that no one else provided.

-- From ‘Herbert Read: A Foreword’ in Herbert Read: A British Vision of World Art, 1993