3 – Denis Lowson

Purbeck Cliffs, 1990

Purbeck Cliffs, 1990

Panel 3 – Denis Lowson –Painter, Printmaker, Cartoonist – 1925-2007

In a narrow garret studio at the top of this house, Denis Lowson lived and painted for forty years. He was a colourful, endearing character familiar to all the residents of Swanage, and remembered by many visitors to the town as he sketched and painted on the cliffs and hills around the town. He called himself a Dorset painter, but he also travelled widely and regaled his many friends with vivid cartoons illustrating his adventures and recording life in all its comic diversity.

Denis began by winning a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art and developed as a very versatile artist, excelling in many media – watercolour, gouache, pastel, charcoal, oils pen and ink and Japanese-style prints. Throughout his long painting career he resisted the fashionable “bandwagon” as he called it, of abstractionism, remaining essentially a representational artist, while experimenting successfully in expressionism and magic realism. In England he loved to travel around with the circus and to sketch backstage at any theatrical performance. Abroad too he painted many a carnival or fiesta. He lived a classic bohemian life of penury interspersed with brief periods of prosperity. He spent long working spells in countries like Mexico, Southern India, Bali or Haiti, wherever  he could find a warm welcome and economic lifestyle. He practiced Yoga and studied Vedanta in his mature years, filling his notebooks with spiritual writings and poems. His brilliant cartoons are a kind of Gulliverian travelogue of exotic places and people.

As the pendulum of fashion swings unsteadily back towards representation and fantasy, it seems likely that Denis Lowson’s vivid works will continue to appeal.