Russell Cowles

Theme/Style – Landscapes, figurative art, still lifes

Media – Oils, murals, frescoes, watercolors, pastels

Artistic Focus – Returning to the U.S. after study in Europe in the early 1920s, Russell Cowles said, “I had been infected by the germs of the old Armory Show, even though the germs had lain dormant for so long.” And, indeed, Cowles’s style evolved into one in which classic forms – the landscape, the still life, the nude figure – are imbued with a striking and powerful Modernist aesthetic, celebrating the natural world through the richness of color, shape, and texture.

Career Highlights –

• Russell Cowles was born in Algona, Iowa, in 1887. His mother, who had studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, encouraged his artistic pursuits.
• Cowles graduated from Dartmouth College in 1909. He went on to study in Paris, and also in New York at the National Academy of Design and at the Art Students’ League.
• In 1915 Cowles received the Prix de Rome, which provided him with a scholarship to the American Academy in Rome, and he spent five years painting and studying in Italy.
• Cowles returned to America in 1920 and exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. However, having grown dissatisfied with the classical tradition in which he had been schooled, Cowles subsequently destroyed all his existing paintings.
• Cowles traveled widely, visiting China, Japan, Greece, India, Java, Bali, and also Egypt, where he married Eleanor Stanton.
• In the 1930s Cowles began dividing his time between New York City and the art community in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where his associates included John Marin, Andrew Dasburg, Marsden Hartley, B. J. O. Nordfeldt, D.H. Lawrence, and Emil Bisttram.
• Two primary galleries – the Kraushaar Galleries in New York City and the Dalzell Hatfield Galleries in Los Angeles – represented Cowles during this time in his career.
• In 1946, impresario Merle Armitage designed a monograph on Cowles, written by Donald Bear, the Director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and published by the Dalzell Hatfield Galleries in Los Angeles.
• By 1948 Russell Cowles had produced over 40 one-person shows, and won many awards including prizes at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1925, the Denver Art Museum in 1936, the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and at the Santa Barbara Museum in 1943.
• Cowles passed away in New York City in 1979.