He was a musician, a songwriter, an actor, and a legend. But did you know he started as a painter?

David Bowie Paintings

A Soulful Art Legacy: 25 Art done by David Bowie

Just like many others around the globe, I was saddened by the departure of a great artist of our age – David Bowie. I have to admit, though, my sadness is somehow selfish. I knew that it wouldn’t be long until my turn facing the end of this life, just like my favourite artist who sang me these songs that I grew up listening to. However, there are some artists behind the mask of sadness, are simply prompted to promote their freshly-made paintings and prints, to profit from shocked fans who want to pay tribute to their hero. On that very same day!

David Bowie’s own art

So, instead of sharing arts made on the death of David Bowie, here I would like to share some of his very own artwork. Let’s pay real tribute to him by celebrating his creativity! David Bowie paintings show a knowledgeable approach to art, influenced by Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, Francis Bacon, Francis Picabia…

German Expressionism

In spring 1976, he and Iggy Pop left America ‘and moved to Berlin. They were fleeing the artistic cannibalism of Los Angeles. Berlin gave him access to a new life and new inspirations. And not just about music: Bowie, whose affinity for German Expressionist art far pre-dated his residence in Berlin, executed then a great number of lithographs and many portrait paintings. It had a great influence on his songwriting. He clearly isn’t a master and there is a technical lack of practice to be seen, but there is also passion and great sensitivity.

“You aren’t dead as long as somebody is thinking about you.” Bertolt Brecht

Turkish Father and Son – 1978
Squeeze 2000 –  1996
Portrait of JO – 1976
Hearts Filthy Lesson – 1995
Dry Heads Capetown – 1995
The rape of Bigarschol – 1996
Present future accepted – 1995
I am a World Champion – 1977
Evol for the Missing – 1996
Berlin landscape with JO – 1978 (Portrait of Iggy Pop (James Osterberg))
Child in Berlin  – 1977

DHead series

Bowie continuously painted these DHeads during his career, but it only went public around 1994.

DHead – portrait of Mike Garson
(Courtesy of Mike Garson – thanks to Mike and Mark)



Bowie’s original art value

An update to talk about the estimated value of his artworks. In 1998, Bowie donated a DHead painting, self-portrait in this case, to the fundraising ARTAID in Edinburgh.

In 2016 an anonymous fan (a film producer) of David Bowie paid £22,500 for it at auction (around 28k $ or 25k €). The estimated value and bid was £3,000-£5,000.

South African series

An exploration of Bowie’s thoughts on the “white ancestor” story, gleaned from his trip to South Africa. The artist’s quote:

“In 1995 Iman and I took our first trip to South Africa. One of the prevailing stories handed down is that when the first tribes saw the white man they presumed they were being visited by their ancestors, as in their mythology the ancestors appear as a ghost-like white form.”

Ancestor II

Major Arcana cards series

Five silkscreens after the tarot made by David Bowie made this series inspired by the five major tarot cards, in Los Angeles, November 1975.

The first edition of 50 was only gifted to his family and friends (And today some of them are presented by the Masterpiece Gallery in London). Then in the 90s’, a new release of smaller size and a larger edition (how many?) was made available to the public.

Representations of the Major Arcana

  • “Lovers”, the 22 trump cards,
  • “Death”, the 6th trump card,
  • “Star” the 13th trump card,
  • “Moon” the 18th,
  • “Earth” the 21st.

We can easily draw a parallel between the artworks and Bowie’s career phases. Lovers, Death, Star, Moon, Earth as displayed but shuffling them up as Earth, Star, Lovers, Moon and inevitably death and realizing the combinations are endless.

Sketches and studies

Preparatory drawings by David Bowie for different projects, including an unrealised film set in Hunger City, 1974.

Study – Hunger City – The Future
Make-up study
Study – One Such Tribe enters one such Building – Handwritten musings referring to Diamond Dogs.
Drawing on Gitane Packet
Study – Ashes to Ashes

David Bowie self-portraits

Self portrait – 1996
Self portrait – 1996 (another photo)
Dhead V, 1995, Acrylic on canvas
Self portrait – 1996
Self-portrait – 1978, Inspired by the cover for the album cover of Heroes (Victoria and Albert Museum)