She was seventy years old when she took up a paint brush and now the fruits of her labour are back on the walls of a Belfast gallery for the first time in nearly forty years.
Gretta Bowen, mother to the deceased distinguished Irish artist George Campbell spent her life admiring the members of her creative family George and Arthur.
George, a celebrated guitarist as well as a painter lived for several years in Spain.
He periodically visited his mother in her Belfast home with
‘ the force of a tornado’ according to the late Arthur.
Opening Greta’s exhibition at the Emer Gallery on the Antrim Road the painter Neil Shawcross recalled a solitary meeting with the ageing artist.
He regaled a happy gathering of how Gretta was prompted to take up the paint brushes.
In the wake of George’s many visits Gretta became rather preoccupied about the potential waste of her artist son’s tubes of oil paints about the house which were gathering dust.
She habitually aired her concerns about the paints going to loss.
This moved Arthur to suggest that she should ‘ do a bit of painting herself ‘ reminding her of the word pictures she used to paint of the idyllic world of her childhood days.
Some time later Arthur arrived back to his mother’s Magdela Street home to find the said lady painting in the coal shed.
He was overwhelmed at what he witnessed. George was equally impressed. Soon she was exhibiting in Waddington’s Gallery in Dublin and further afield in her eighties and nineties.
The story didn’t end there.
Shawcross recounted one beautiful twist to life of this remarkable woman.
He added ‘ Arthur came back home one day to find many of the finished works lined up as his ailing mum set about painting over them.
She felt they needed a bit of brightening up.
” There was one saving grace however. They were double-glazed.!! That saved the day” said Neil.