Skip to main content

Ruth Bowman papers, 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999

Biographical Note

Ruth Bowman (b. 1923) is an art historian and museum educator who worked in New York City and Los Angeles. She is known for her interest in using new communications technology for museum education, discovering Arshile Gorky's long forgotten murals at Newark Airport, and expertise in the work of Thomas Anshutz.
A graduate of Bryn Mawr College (B.A. 1944), where she had studied art history and classical archaeology, Ruth Bowman began a museum career in New York as an assistant curator at the Jewish Museum in the early 1960s. From 1963-1974 Ruth Bowman served as curator of the York University Art Collection and was involved in its transition to the Grey Art Gallery and Study Center. Bowman wrote her master's thesis on Philadelphia artist Thomas Pollock Anshutz and received a degree from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University in 1971. During this same period, she was a staff lecturer at The Museum of Modern Art and taught art history in divisions of New York University. She was the instructor for a "Sunrise Semester" 20th century American art course broadcast nationally on CBS.
In 1974 Bowman and her family moved to California and she began an association with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as Director of Education. She attended summer courses in arts administration at Harvard University (1975) and similar training provided by the British Arts Council (1976). She taught at University of California Santa Barbara, as well as at California State University at Fullerton and Long Beach. Bowman was active in the Council of the American Association of Museums (vice president), the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (vice president), and has served as a consultant to several museums and a corporate collection.
Ruth Bowman with her friend Harry Kahn (1916-1999) developed a collection of self-portraits by 20th century American artists, which she donated to the National Portrait Gallery in 2002. Mrs. Bowman is the widow of R. Wallace Bowman and currently resides in New York City.