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Stella Bowen (1893–1947)

Author of Drawn from Life

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Esther "Stella" Bowen was born in Australia and wanted to become a professional artist from an early age. Her mother opposed the idea, and it was not until her mother died in 1914 that Stella was able to go to England to study at the Westminster School of Art, London. There she studied with Walter Sickert. In London, Stella befriended many contemporary writers, artists, poets and political activists. In 1918, she met and fell in love with Ford Madox Ford, 20 years her senior. They moved to the Sussex countryside and had a daughter in 1920. Two years later, they moved to France, settling in Paris. Stella lived a bohemian lifestyle in Paris and got to know many Lost Generation artists and writers there, including T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and James Joyce. She and Ford separated in 1927. Stella struggled to earn enough money and in 1932, went to the USA at the invitation of poet Ramon Guthrie, who helped her find commissions. She returned to England on her 40th birthday. Although she continued to paint, she supplemented her income by writing an art review column and teaching. In 1940, she published Drawn from Life: A Memoir. During World War II, she was one of the first female artists commissioned by the Australian War Memorial. Her role as an official war artist was to depict the activities of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) stationed in England and paint portraits of military commanders and Australian soldiers. She completed 49 works over a period of 20 months. Stella Bowen died at age 54 of colon cancer, having never returned to Australia.
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