William Bishop Owen Jr., the youngest son of two highly educated parents, was born outside Chicago, Ill, in 1895. His love of art took him to the nearby Chicago Art Institute to study painting, then to the Woodstock School of Art in New York where he won 1st prize for painting at the age of 19. Soon after, back at the Chicago Art Institute, Owen won the esteemed Butler Prize in 1921, the Eisendrath Prize in 1923, and the Thompson Prize in 1925.
Continually fascinated with painting and its possibilities Owen studied art history while also studying with prominent artists of his time, including with Robert Henri, John Sloane and George Bellows in New York, and in Paris with internationally renown artist Andre L’Hote. During the depression Owen joined other prominent artists working with the Works Progress Administration in New York.
Winning much critical acclaim for his paintings early in life afforded Owen a teaching job wherever he chose to travel, which he used to fulfill his desire for change. From his late teens until his passing in 1963 Owen lived, studied, painted and taught in Chicago, New York, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Virginia, Wyoming, Massachusetts, France, Spain, Corsica and Majorca.
Just as Owen never settled in one area geographically, he also never settled on one style of painting, constantly trying new approaches to painting throughout his life. It appears that sometime in the 1940s Owen chose to paint solely abstract paintings. Thanks to a recollection of a family member, we know that Owen considered these modern paintings to be the pinnacle of his life’s work.
Owen passed away suddenly in 1963. In 1972 Owen’s family mounted a retrospective of his work in Santa Fe, NM.
In 2003 several of Owen’s paintings were chosen to decorate the Bloom home in Tim Burton’s award winning film Big Fish.