Obituary: Druie Bowett

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The Independent Culture
DRUIE BOWETT was one of a remarkable group of artists who came to attention in the years following the Second World War.

Paintings of hers were featured in many of the prestigious Midland Group exhibitions held in Nottingham during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Unlike some of these artists Bowett chose to remain in the north Midlands whilst others pursued their careers in the South. This was to the gain of her family and friends and to that of discerning collectors who bought her work. Her paintings can be found in many public galleries, county council collections, the boardrooms of industry and numerous private collections in Britain and abroad.

She was born Drucilla Glover in Ripon in 1924 - her Yorkshire roots were vital to her sense of identity. She attended Queen Margaret's School, York, which was evacuated to Castle Howard at the outbreak of war. There in 1940 fire destroyed many of their belongings. She was determined enough quickly to repair the loss of her paintings with compensation money she received.

At Harrogate School of Art, advised to study "commercial art", she rebelled in favour of Fine Art, drawing from the antique, life drawing and painting. Tutors came from the Royal College of Art and the Slade, bringing with them the current academic style, but it was Jean-Georges Simon, newly arrived from Paris, who opened her eyes to a wider European modern style of clean bright colour and formal discipline. His influence was lifelong. The confident abstraction of Bowett's mature work can be traced back to Simon.

Marriage in 1943 to John Bowett, a veterinary surgeon, gave her a richly varied life. She loved horses and the excitement of the race-course, travelled with her husband, and was the devoted mother of three sons. Yet painting was always paramount.

She made contact with the Midland Group through calling, with extreme trepidation, on its founder, the painter and teacher Evelyn Gibbs. The older woman invited her in, approved of her painting, and long years of friendship followed. Soon Druie Bowett became one of the active members of the group, helping as they all did to decorate and prepare the temporary venues for exhibitions of the most illustrious artists of the time, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland among them, and Bowett's contemporaries Terry Frost and Prunella Clough.

Bowett exhibited her own early work, mainly landscapes and industrial views. During the 1950s she concentrated on honing her style to the edge of abstraction. A hard-won clarity and abstraction of form was achieved during the 1960s in such paintings as Brown and Yellow and Wookery. By 1982, the date of her first London solo show at the Drian Gallery, she had held over 20 solo exhibitions.

The middle years of Druie Bowett's life were affected by bouts of illness and the diagnosis of diabetes but her motto "Persevere, persevere!" stood her in good stead for the increasing struggles with illness when her husband's health also declined. His death was a great blow to her art, but eventually she found a means to express her loss through an extraordinary series of paintings whose emotive images recall their closeness. These were shown at her crucial exhibitions in the 1990s at the newly opened Pierre- point Gallery, Nottinghamshire, and at Bradford and Nottingham.

"Given Space", at Cartwright Hall, Bradford, in 1995 showed Bowett to be a painter at the height of her powers. The paintings were bravura displays of colour, light and form, about sensations of space, nearness and distance, sometimes having the stillness of a Ben Nicholson, sometimes the directness of a Terry Frost.

Her career in painting was matched by public responsibilities. For many years she gave her time and experience to the East Midlands region as committee member, then chair, of the governing bodies of Chesterfield and Loughborough Colleges of Art and Design. She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and remained the most dedicated supporter and advocate of all forms of serious art practice.

Before her latest illness, she gave the opening speech with all her regular vigour and humour at an exhibition of the work of her friend Evelyn Gibbs, who died in 1991.

Pauline Lucas

Drucilla Ellen Glover, painter: born Ripon, Yorkshire 1924; married 1943 John Bowett (died 1994; three sons); died Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire 4 December 1998.

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