Sheila Bownas: A Yorkshire Life in Pattern

Mercer Art Gallery

9 September 2017 – 7 January 2018

A collection of original, hand-painted designs sheds light on the life and work of Yorkshire artist Sheila Bownas.

Sheila Bownas, 1970s pattern

Discovered in a Yorkshire saleroom by gallery professional Chelsea Cefai, an entire archive of work by artist Sheila Bownas (1925-2007) led to the unravelling of an overlooked story.

Raised in the Yorkshire Dales village of Linton in Craven, Bownas developed her artistic talent at Skipton Art College and went on to The Slade, London. After graduating in 1950 she pursued a career as a freelance designer, supplying patterns to clients including Liberty and Marks and Spencer, and moved between London and Linton for more than a decade before finally settling in the Dales for the rest of her life. She continued selling designs by post for a further 20 years – but it was only after her death in 2007 that her family discovered the scale of her collection of still life, landscape and portrait paintings alongside the textile designs. 

This exhibition celebrates Bownas’ work in her native Yorkshire, showing everything from her figurative scenes to mid-century modernist patterns and bringing 100 designs from the uncovered archive collection together with material loaned from Bownas’ family and friends. The show also includes eight previously unseen designs, recently brought forward by a private collector.

Venue information

Opening times

Apr – Oct

Tue – Sat and bank holiday Mon, 10am – 5pm (Sun from 2pm)

Nov – Mar

Tue – Sat and bank holiday Mon, 10am – 4pm (Sun from 2pm)

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)