A former art instructor and popular artist in Memphis, he is the subject of a memorial exhibition at the Memphis College of Art Rust Hall Main Gallery, 1930 Poplar Avenue, Overton Park, through Jan. 26. One of his paintings commissioned by Milton Sandy Sr. can currently be seen at the Corinth Artist Guild Gallery.
Bowman, who died July 31, was known for his landscape and still life paintings characterized by thick layers of brightly colored paint.
“Peter had a very recognizable style and really pushed paint around,” said Memphis College of Art Dean Remy Miller. “He painted with unabashed enthusiasm, and the paint was heavily applied. He was always covered in paint, but it wasn’t the sort of ‘show off’ thing you sometimes see in artists that are trying too hard. Peter wasn’t capable of being false — he was as genuine a painter and person you would ever want to meet.”
The painting at the Corinth gallery was Bowman’s first commissioned work, according to Milton Sandy Jr. It was done for the James Lawrence Restaurant Sandy Sr. and three business associates built along with a motel in the early 1960s in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. The painting depicts a naval battle during the War of 1812 in which Naval officer James Lawrence coined the phrase, “Don’t give up the ship!”
Milton Sandy Jr. said the family has wonderful memories of Bowman.
“Some of my most fond memories are adventures as kids on boy scout camping trips in Troop 129,” said Sandy. “Our scout leader was Mr. Bill Hardin, who was the manager of the Bell South telephone office in Corinth, and he had the patience of a saint. My mother tells the story of meeting Peter’s mother one time at some type social gathering in Corinth. She told Mrs. Bowman how happy my father was with Peter’s painting and was told by Peter’s mother that either the kitchen or living room floor had to be refinished in her house because of that painting. So I’m not sure Peter’s early art inclinations were that well received when Pete was living at home. From this original painting, it is evident that the heavy use of paint and vivid colors were a personal style that never changed throughout Peter’s career.”
Bowman taught art at Memphis University School for nearly 30 years, from 1979 to 2008, in addition to teaching at Rhodes College and in MCA’s Community Education program. His work is included in the permanent collections of Rhodes College, Financial Federal, Pfizer, Promus and the VCU Health System. He was also known for his work outside the classroom.
Artwork will be available for purchase at the Memphis exhibit with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Memphis College of Art’s scholarship fund. An RSVP reception is scheduled for Friday; call Holly Guthrie at (901) 272-5168.