Laurence Gowing was born in London and studied at the Euston School under William Coldstream. He held his first solo show at the Leicester Galleries in 1948. He was active as painter, a writer, a teacher and an adviser to the nation on the arts. From 1948-58 he was Professor of Fine Art at the University of Durham. He was Keeper of the British Collection and Deputy Director of the Tate Gallery from 1965-67 following a period as principal of Chelsea School of Art. From 1967-75 he was Professor of Fine Art at Leeds University, and from 1975 was Slade Professor of Fine Art at University College, London. Gowing was awarded a CBE in 1953 and a Knighthood in 1982, the year before a major touring Arts Council retrospective of his work.
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