Bowen, Gretta (1880–1981)

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Bowen, Gretta (1880–1981)

Irish artist. Born in Dublin, Ireland, on January 1, 1880; died on April 8, 1981, at age 102; marriedMatthew Campbell; children: three sons, including George and Arthur Campbell, both painters.

Born in Dublin in 1880, Gretta Bowen was married in her early 20s to Matthew Campbell with whom she moved to Belfast. Upon her husband's death in 1925, left with little money and three sons, she took student boarders into her home in the university district. Bowen's own talent was discovered when she was in her 70s, after she worked with some paint left behind by her sons George and Arthur who had become painters. She agreed to exhibit only under her maiden name, not wanting to ride the coattails of her son George who had already made a name for himself. She exhibited three times in Belfast under the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and her work was sold to patrons in England, America, France, and Morocco. In 1979, when she was 100 years old, Bowen was invited to contribute to the first international exhibition of naïve art. Her primitive paintings of childhood scenes, combined with her advanced age, inevitably brought comparisons with Grandma Moses , who was 20 years her senior. In 1975, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland commissioned her son George to paint her portrait. Bowen's work is represented in the Ulster Museum.

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