Fleur Cowles (1908 - 2009)

River Rendezvous Sold

Oil on board.
Signed and dated FLEUR 75 at the lower right.
Inscribed with the title River / Rendez / vous on a piece of paper pasted on the reverse.
278 x 717 mm. (10 7/8 x 28 1/4 in.)


Leopards and tigers appear in many of Fleur Cowles’ paintings. As she has noted, ‘I am continually asked why I paint these jungle beasts. I don’t think there is anything more to it than a vivid memory I have of them as a child at zoos, but my husband has a different answer and I agree that he’s partially right. He once gave me an Abyssinian cat; a most unlawful act as the 18th century national monument in which we live in London still heeds its ancient rules: no animals or children are allowed. We gave the cat away very soon but the sleek animal stayed long enough for me to absorb him and his ways in my mind’s eye. He used our home as a jungle, prowling (never strolling) through and round the furniture, and never in a straight line. He would fly to the top of a high armoire in our bedroom, to stare down at me intently. Sometimes he would jump into my office wastebasket to continue to stare, a friendly beast but no house cat, he. I obviously did mentally photograph his jumps, his walk and his eyes.’

At the time of an exhibition of Cowles’s paintings at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. in 1993, Richard Martin, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote of her work, ‘Fleur Cowles has found a place for art within her extraordinary life. In fact, she has placed the creation of art as the center of her busy, effective life. Journalist, editor and Presidential representative, Fleur Cowles has tended her own creative garden, a proliferation of flowers enchanted by a nature rich and benevolent…[she] imbues each mushroom, flower, or fictive jungle with the properties of enchantment. We are drawn into the mystery of nature as a child might be. We may even be uncertain about scale when a friendly leopard, industrious bird, or fanciful unicorn appears amidst the petals…What Cowles does is to transform nature, turning it from perceived grace into a mysterious beauty that surpasses perception and invokes the imagination…In a tranquil and busy bower of nature, she has invented a microcosm, a little world known to us in every rational taxonomy of flower and life form, but ultimately exotic to us in elegant perfection.’


River Rendezvous


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