Born in London in 1952, Eleanor Bowen studied painting at Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts and was awarded an Abbey Major Scholarship at the British School in Rome in 1977. Bowen went on to undertake an MA in Critical Studies, Visual Arts and Theatre at Wimbledon School of Art, followed by a practice-based PhD. Bowen has been exhibiting her work since her drawing residency with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1996. Bowen has since shown her work in galleries across London. Her portrait was acquired by Ruth Borchard Collection in 2011.
Following this, in 2012 Bowen began devising and performing text with Dr Laura Gonzalez exploring themes of hysteria, motherhood and material culture in action. She is currently an associate lecturer and a tutor of short courses in life drawing at the University of the Arts, London.
Bowen's work explores self-portraiture in a myriad of ways. Her oeuvre explores the presence of self in absence and the self after having endured trauma. Bowen does so through large multi-media canvases, pin-hole camera portraits, linear drawings and small expressionistic paintings done in low light. Bowen finds self-portraiture compelling 'because, whether a 'good image' or not, as a 'self trace' the self-portrait can pick up psychically on what it is to be here now.' Bowen cites her influences as Frank Auerbach's self-portraits, Giacometti's collected works, Braque's poetic ateliers and David Jones's delicately romantic drawings.
Bowen's 2011 self-portrait, or 'self trace' - which is both intricately drawn and subtly embroidered with allusive symbols (with affinities to the pencil and watercolour works of David Jones), takes its title The Vanity of the Maker's Girl from Emily Dickinson's poem Ribbons of the Year.