William Bowmore was a life-long art patron and one of Australia’s most generous philanthropists. He died at age 98 on January 9. Bowmore’s fine art gifts to the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) and other Australian museums such as the Newcastle Region Art Gallery have been valued to be in excess of $17 million.
Following his heart and lifelong passion for art, Bowman started collecting Australian art. In the late ’60s, he began traveling to London. There he made the connections at auction houses and beyond enabling him to purchase international paintings from old masters, and other such works.
After almost half a century of collecting, Bowmore began donating works of art in 1990. Among his most noted contributions to the AGSA are sculptures by Rodin, Roman antiquities and Islamic arts. In 1995 Bowmore facilitated its acquisition of his renowned Rodin sculpture collection.
In 2004 his donation of 45 rare early Middle-Eastern ceramics was key in establishing the first and still only dedicated Islamic gallery in an Australian art museum. Among his other gifts are important works in the British, French, Italian and Dutch collections, two fine Roman sculptures dating from the first and second centuries AD, and the rare seventeenth century Yakob ‘Polonaise’ Islamic carpet.
Mr Bowmore’s gifts to the Newcastle Region Art Gallery included works by Australian artists Sidney Nolan (famed for his Ned Kelly art ~ see illustration), William Dobell, Conrad Martens.
It also included international artists Auguste Rodin, Max Ernst and Jacob Epstein as well as ceramics by Japan’s major artists including Shoji Hamada.
Bowmore has received many awards and honors. The AGSA named the William Bowmore Gallery in his honor in 1997 and has presented three exhibitions of his collections. Born in Dalby, Queensland in 1909, Bowmore taught cello at the Newcastle Conservatorium. He was also a businessman who operated hospitals and hotels.
Mr Bowmore was well respected throughout Australia for his generosity and relentless energy and love for the arts.