Theodore Robert Bowie


Honorary Degree (1984)
Doctor of Fine Arts
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John W. Ryan


Theodore R. Bowie, already a seasoned teacher and scholar, joined the Indiana University faculty of fine arts in 1950. Over the ensuing three decades he established his department as a center for the study and appreciation of Asian art and himself as an eminent authority on the art forms of the East.

The mark of greatness in an art historian is the ability to interpret to the serious student and the public the genesis and evolution of a field of art. An important aspect of Dr. Bowie's contribution to art history was the organization, cataloguing, and arrangement of scores of exhibitions at Indiana University, chiefly in the field of oriental art. Perhaps his masterwork was the brilliant The Arts of Thailand. Years in production and over four years in showing, this many-faceted exposition opened new vistas of little-known styles and forms to Western eyes. Other exhibits featuring the art of Japan, China, and the countries of Islam have instructed and brought joy to viewers over the years. His meticulously prepared catalogues are still in use as reference guides for collectors and scholars.

Born in Japan, Professor Bowie received his baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. He did post-doctoral work at Harvard and spent the first half of his career as a professor of Romance languages. The breadth of his knowledge of cultural development has made him a preeminent art historian. The presence of this colleague of the belles lettres enriches the Indiana University academic community, where his insight and style enhanced other scholars' endeavors.

In addition to being a creator and designer of exhibitions, Theodore Bowie contributed authoritative monographs and books on topics across the entire spectrum of art history. His lectures and seminars attracted hundreds of appreciative audiences, and his students and colleagues in the School of Fine Arts have been inspired by his guidance. At various times he served as chairman, librarian, and curator, and was a founder and guiding light of the Society of The Friends of Art. He had justifiable pride in the support he gained for the school and the Indiana University Art Museum.