In turning from portraiture to the natural world, Senior Royal Academician Olwyn Bowey found an ideal subject for her approach to painting. In particular, she records the interiors of greenhouses both mimetically and dynamically, so conveying their appeal to all the senses. Olwyn Bowey was born in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, on 10 February 1936, to James Bowey, an industrial chemist, and his wife, Olive (née Williams). She was educated at William Newton School, Stockton- on-Tees, and then, from 1955, attended West Hartlepool School of Art. Moving to London, she studied at the Royal College of Art, where she received a First Class Diploma, a continuation scholarship and a David Murray Landscape Scholarship. Her teachers included Carel Weight, who became a friend and Putney neighbour, and with whom she worked and exhibited.
She began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1960, and in the same year held a joint show, with Sonia Lawson, at the Zwemmer Gallery. Through the 1960s, she also showed at the Leicester Galleries and the New Grafton Gallery. She was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1970, and a full Royal Academician in 1975. During the same period, she was a tutor at Waltham Forest School of Art.
Bowey initially focussed on portraiture, and numbered L S Lowry, Harold Pinter, Woodrow Wyatt and Carel Weight among her sitters. Becoming increasingly interested in landscape and still life, she concentrated on these subjects from the mid 1970s, when she took a cottage at Barlavington, south of Petworth, in West Sussex. She subsequently settled in the county at Midhurst, later moving to Petworth. She now always draws and paints on the spot, either outdoors or, most often, in her greenhouse. Working in the tradition of the artist plantsman, she has said that ‘I still don’t think of myself as an artist. I always wanted to be a naturalist’. Elected a Senior Royal Academician in 2011, she is also an Honorary Member of both the Royal West of England Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists. Exhibitions of her work were held in the Friends’ Room of the Royal Academy in 2000 and 2016. Her work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Royal Academy.