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Donald Bowen Collection

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/RCMS 360

Scope and Contents

Memoirs (volumes 1-3 largely relate to upbringing, war service and work at the Commonwealth Institute; volumes 4-11 relate to the period after Bowen's retirement in 1978 and have little reference to the Commonwealth), including personal documents, certificates, photographs, drawings, correspondence, essays, notes, maps, newspaper extracts, obituaries, exhibition catalogues and reviews, lectures and drawings. Together with two sketchbooks, a selection of original drawings, and two published books presented by the director of the Commonwealth Institute.


  • Creation: 1920 - 2019

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Donald George Bowen was born in London in 1917, and was educated at the Sloane Grammar School, the Chelsea School of Art, and studied drawing with Austin Osman Spare. He joined the army during the Second World War, serving in France in 1940. He was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1942, and posted to India in 1943, where he served in Bangalore and Lahore. Bowen was promoted Major in 1946 and became Deputy Assistant Adjutant General, Delhi. He made numerous portrait, landscape and topographical drawings during 1943-47. Bowen left the army and India in 1947.

Between 1947 and 1951, Bowen studied at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting, and received a National Diploma of Design in 1951. He exhibited portrait and landscape paintings, and was employed in the stained glass studios of Whitefriars Glassworks, Harrow, during 1952-53, working on the restored heraldic windows in the Great Hall, Lincoln’s Inn.

In 1953, Bowen was appointed Exhibitions Officer at the Imperial Institute (later the Commonwealth Institute) and then Curator of its Arts Gallery. He organised some 200 exhibitions of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and crafts. He was invited to give lectures at the Royal Society of Arts and other United Kingdom art institutions, and abroad in Canada, West Africa and Denmark. Bowen retired in 1979. He has completed many landscape, topographical and plant drawings, and his works have been the subject of three exhibitions. Bowen has also taught landscape drawing. His works are held in private ownership and at the Victoria and Albert Museum.


0.065 cubic metre(s) (5 archive boxes) : art work/paper/photograph

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Donald Bowen in 2010 and 2019.


Bowen, Donald, 1917-2019, artist and museum curator

2014-02-17 10:54:16+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom