co-founder of The Bowes Museum, was born in 1811.
His family owned land in Durham and Yorkshire.
Their land in north Durham contained large coal
reserves and from the 17th to 19th centuries the
family acquired great wealth from mining and transporting
When John married Josephine they lived at the
Chateau du Barry, near Paris. They both had a
passion for art and began collecting to furnish
their homes in France and England. John and Josephine
did not have any children and it is speculated
that this gap in their lives was the driving force
behind the creation of The Bowes Museum.
Following Josephine's initiative, they decided
to sell the Chateau du Barry and purchase land
in Barnard Castle, near the Bowes’ family
estate at Streatlam. Here they built the Museum
to house their growing collection of art treasures.
John and Josephine’s policy was largely
educational; to introduce ordinary people to the
wider world of art. Unfortunately neither John
nor Josephine lived to see the Museum project
This photograph of John Bowes was probably taken
outside Streatlam Castle, the principal residence
of the Bowes family until the 19th century. It
is one of the last, if not the last photograph
taken of John Bowes in the last years of his life.
Although we do not know the exact date of the
photograph, there is no doubt, judging by his white
hair and tired, heavy eyelids, that it is of a
very old John Bowes. However, whilst a painter
might have drawn attention to the usual signs
of aging such as wrinkles on the face and hands,
this photograph does not manage to capture such
Even though photographs are thought to be capable
of showing nothing but the truth, the sitter and
photographer can still manipulate the medium to
tell things their way. In this photograph for
example, is there a reason that John Bowes chose
to be photographed at that particular angle, in
those particular clothes and in that particular