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William Bowness

Epithet: Artist (1809-1867)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: Bowness was born in Highgate, Kendal, Westmorland in 1809, the son of Richard Bowness, a hosier, and Jane Knipe. His parents were Inghamites belonging to the Pear Tree Chapel, which was an early version of the Methodists. His father died young and his mother took over the business to provide for her young children, William and his four sisters.

William showed an early aptitude for drawing and his mother, following advice, placed him with the drawing school recently opened by S. Crosthwaite in the Market Place house recently occupied by Mrs Jackson Harrison.

His studies were interrupted when he was about fifteen as his mother died and he took over responsibility for providing for, and educating his sisters, continuing the hosiery business and trying to sort out his father’s affairs.

The compiler of his long obituary in the Westmorland Gazette 11 January 1868 remembers his loving care of the orphaned family and his continuous study of drawing. He also speaks of his athletic agility and of his feats of daring when he climbed the donjon tower of the then much higher Kendal Castle, and, running round the top leapt the terrific gorge to the consternation and admiration of the large crowd. He later went on to attract admiration in London for his skating performances on the Serpentine river in Hyde Park, eclipsing the best men in the Skating Club.

By the time his sisters had grown up. William, who had been exhibiting his work, was still hankering after a painting career, and this ambition was "hastened after an introduction to Thomas Allom, the estimable landscape painter and architect, and to Mr Thomas Sidney Cooper A.R.A whom he met at the home of Mr. John Barton, then of Gill Cottage, (now of Preston)".He set off to try his fortune in London.

He did not follow his friends’ advice and stick to vignette heads in crayons, wanting to use paints, and unfortunately he did not become fashionable. After some tribulations he settled on becoming a provincial artist, and being of a genial and affable nature, and excelling in poetry, vocal, and instrumental music, he made friends and patrons in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Westmorland who were glad to give him work in oils.

Occupation / profession: Artist

Nationality: British

Gender: Male

Date of birth: 1809

Date of death: 1867

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