Knighthood for pioneering black artist Frank Bowling

By Will Brook

A pioneering black artist has been awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Artist Frank Bowling, 86, who still paints in Peacock Yard, near Walworth Post Office, was last week named in the Queen’s Honours List to receive a Knighthood for his career and contribution to art.

Sir Frank is one of the few black artists to be awarded a Knighthood, joining film director Sir Steve McQueen, a Goldsmith’s University graduate.

Sir Frank said: “To be recognised for my contribution to British painting and art history with a Knighthood makes me extremely proud.

“Trained in the English art school tradition, my identity as a British artist has always been crucial to me and I have viewed London as my home since arriving in 1953 from what was then British Guiana.”

Sir Frank arrived in England at the age of 19 and, after completing his National Service in the Royal Air Force, went on to study at the Chelsea School of Art.

He then won a scholarship to study painting at London’s Royal College of Art, alongside other notable artists including David Hockney, R.B Kitaj and Allen Jones.

He said: “The moment I arrived in South London, I knew I was home. I arrived at Waterloo station and I remember trying to go up the escalator the wrong way.

“It was summer time and the whole of London was celebrating the Coronation, and I went all over London travelling on buses and trains.

“I started working in Peacock Yard in 1984, where I still paint even today, and it was there that I made the first painting that the Tate acquired, called Spreadout Ron Kitaj.

“I have a tremendous affection for South London. I live in Pimlico, a minute away from the Thames.

“I’ve always lived near the river – in Bartica Essequibo (British Guiana) where I was born, or New Amsterdam where I grew up, or the East River in New York, or right here in London.

“Although my identity is combined from all of the streams of influence in my life, in my heart, I’ll always be a Londoner.”

Sir Frank’s artwork, categorised as abstract expressionism, is described by Tate Art Gallery as a “visionary approach that fuses abstraction with personal memories”.

It has been exhibited across the world at prominent galleries including Tate Britain and the Royal Academy of Arts.

His first major retrospective exhibition was hosted at Tate Britain last year.

Sir Frank also received the accolade of Royal Academician in 2005, the first black British artist to do so.

Pictured top: Artist Sir Frank Bowling


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