Elected ARSA: 18 March 1903
The death of John Bowie took place at his residence, 14 Drummond Place, Edinburgh, on the 8th October. He was born in Edinburgh, son of the late John Bowie, M.D., and was educated at George Watson’s College. Beginning his art training at the Mound and the Life School of the Academy, he proceeded to Paris, where he worked under Bouguereau and Robert Fleury at Julien’s Academy. Subsequently he visited Holland and Spain.
It was in portraiture that Bowie found his most distinctive expression. In these past two years of war-time conditions, when members have been showing retrospective works at the Annual Exhibition, there has been an opportunity of seeing some of his earlier successes. In 1940 we had the large portrait group of the Chaplains of Queen Victoria.
Last year he exhibited Bishop Dowden and Principal Rainy. The latter of these must be regarded as one of the great Scottish portraits. Its simple dignity, its characterization of the distinguished churchman, the subtlety of the hands and the accomplishment of the painting generally are not able elements in this remarkable achievement.
A work of great size, and of daunting difficulty to a less forceful personality, belongs to the Edinburgh Corporation, and represents the Town Council of Edinburgh in the time of the Provostship of Sir James Russell,1893-4. John Bowie was elected Associate Member in 1903. He was a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris.
RSA Obituary by George Pirie & David Foggie. Transcribed from the 1941 RSA Annual Report.