Charles Bowman and Family Painting

Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives would like to share an update on the Charles Bowman and Family painting and provide a sneak peek behind the scenes of this exciting conservation project!

Update, May 2023: Painting Unveiled

On Tuesday, May 23, a newly installed display of the Charles Bowman and Family Painting was unveiled in a private ceremony at the Municipal Administrative Centre in Bowmanville. This portrait was donated to the Clarington Museums and Archives in 2015 and represents an important piece of local history. It is the only known likeness of Bowmanville’s namesake, Charles Bowman.

Recently, the painting underwent professional conservation treatment. Due to its significance, and sensitivity of materials, a custom-built, climate-controlled display case was sourced in order to have the painting displayed safely. With our desire to share this unique piece of the town’s history with local residents, the newly-created display has been installed in the local government headquarters to be accessible to all.

Local residents will be able to view the Charles Bowman and Family portrait in the Municipal Administrative Centre as of Wednesday May 24.

Please see the Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives press release for more information.

Mayor Adrian Foster and Heather Ridge, Curator and Heritage Services Manager, Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives, unveiling the painting
[Full-size image; 5.2 MB]

After the unveiling ceremony
[Full-size image; 5.7 MB]

The Charles Bowman and Family portrait in its new display case at the Municipal Administration Centre
[Full-size image; 5.5MB]

Update, November 2022: Painting Returned

The painting has now been returned to us following the professional conservation treatment which included repairing, cleaning, and framing the canvas. We are happy to share a photo of the final results, as we understand the community’s continued interest in this project.

A custom-built display case is being constructed and once received, we will install the painting for public display. An announcement will be made regarding the official unveiling at that time.

Thank you for the continued interest and support of this project!

Charles Bowman Family Portrait.

[Full-size image; 2.4 MB]

Update, August 2022: Conservation Treatment

As possibly one of the only surviving images of Charles Bowman and his family, this portrait is important to the history and artistic heritage of Clarington. Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives is pleased to be working in conjunction with leading industry professionals to conserve, display, and interpret the Charles Bowman and Family painting for future generations.

As this work of art is over 170 years old and has passed through several generations of the Bowman family, it requires conservation care that is different than most museum artifacts. The Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives have taken extra measures for the work’s safety by commissioning a specialty case which will provide proper environmental controls to ensure the painting remains stable while being displayed.

The painting is currently with a professional painting conservator, who is working on repairing, cleaning, and framing the canvas. We are happy to share these photos of the progress being made below, as the Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives understand the community’s vested interest in this project.

Please click/tap on each image below to view a larger version.

The original Charles Bowman and Family portrait
[Full-size image; 4.3 MB]

The portrait during the conservation process, with the old varnish fully removed
[Full size image; 1.9 MB]

Detail of Anne Bowman during the conservation process, with the old varnish removed
[Full size image; 8 MB]

Detail of portrait background during the conservation process
[Full size image; 7.4 MB]

More Information

Future Display

Upon completion of the conservation treatment later this year, the Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives will make a public announcement of the unveiling of the official Charles Bowman and Family painting display. We thank everyone for their interest and continued support of the Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives and look forward to sharing this important artifact with the public.

Bowmanville’s Namesake

Bowmanville was named after Charles Bowman (1790-1848), but an interesting fact is that he never lived in Bowmanville! Charles Bowman was a merchant who came to the area of Bowmanville (then called Darlington Mills) in 1824, however, he maintained his family home in Montreal. Bowman purchased 300 acres of land in Darlington Mills and purchased a general store that served the community well for many years. He also paid for a surveyor to lay out streets, donated land to churches, and people began to establish homes and businesses nearby. It is because of Bowman’s contributions to the town’s development that people began calling it Bowmanville by the 1830s.

Charles Bowman lived in the Westmount area of Montreal with his wife, Elizabeth (nee Savage), and their 5 children: Charles, Elizabeth, James, Anne, and Victoria Sophia. Sadly, only Elizabeth survived into adulthood. She married and in turn had 8 children with Captain Robert Raynes, while continuing to live in the Westmount family home.

Discovery of the Painting

A few local residents and past staff of Clarington Museums and Archives believed that a portrait of Charles Bowman and his family existed based on provenance records and anecdotes, but thought it was lost over the years.  

In 2014, former Curator, Charles Taws, received a call from an individual who had information on the Bowman painting. With some research, it was discovered that the painting was given to a family friend of the Raynes (the Bowman granddaughters) and the painting went unrecognized for years. In 2015 the work was donated to the Clarington Museums and Archives and has been cared for as part of the permanent collection ever since.

The Portrait’s Significance

In this extraordinary work of art that dates from the mid 1840s, the Scottish merchant Charles Bowman and his wife, Elizabeth, are portrayed with their five children. Created by an unknown artist in oil on canvas, the relatively small dimensions of this portrait (67.3 x 85.7 cm) make the likenesses of the individuals even more impressive.

Seated to the right of centre, Charles Bowman is an engaging figure as he looks directly out at the viewer. Charles appears to have just taken a seat with his family, as a red silk-lined cloak is draped casually on his chair, and a newspaper has fallen on the ground at his feet. Not incidentally, the newspaper’s title reads “Montreal,” hinting at Bowman’s home and estate in Westmount.

Drawing on a theme of education and family legacy, the artist’s composition forms a V shape, with Bowman’s eldest son Charles as the tallest figure. Hinting at Bowman’s profession as a merchant, his youngest son, James, also holds a leather-bound portfolio that likely contains maps or drawings. A daughter, Anne, similarly pauses from her reading, while another book is found near her stool. In addition, the little dog at the bottom left of canvas is traditionally interpreted as a symbol of loyalty and domesticity. With these references, the artist implies Charles Bowman’s ability to balance professional duties with his dedication to family life.

Further Reading

Please see the below articles regarding the history of Charles Bowmanville and the return of the painting:


The love of comfort food is something that unites us all. Whether going back to your roots to make your family’s tried-and-true recipe, or branching out to try a cuisine that is new to you, the sharing of food and techniques for culinary success are important to all cultures and communities.

Discover interesting recipes that we found in our local newspaper archives. Do versions of these have a valued place in your own family’s cookery archives?

Give them a try, then share your results with us on social media @claringtonlma (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), along with the hashtag #RetroRecipeRewind!

A New Apple Pie

  • ¾ cup shredded pineapple
  • 2 cups apple sauce
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1½ tbsp gelatin softened in ¼ cup water or pineapple juice

Drain the pineapple and combine with the apple sauce. Add the salt. Dissolve the gelatin over hot water and add to the fruit mixture. Pour into a baked pie shell or graham cracker crust, and chill thoroughly before serving.

Click here or the image to the left to download the PDF!

(The Canadian Statesman, October 6, 1938, p.9)


Company Dinner

“As lovely Spring days approach there will be much visiting and modest entertaining.” Try this “little different, yet economical” menu for your next get together!

  • Creamed pork chops
  • Baked potatoes
  • Glazed onions
  • Whole wheat muffins and butter
  • Pea and carrot salad
  • Maple cream dessert
  • Date loaf
  • Coffee
  • After dinner mints

Creamed Pork Chops

Pan brown the chops and then place them in a shallow dish.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a dust of sage. Sprinkle thickly with finely-ground bread crumbs. Dot with butter.
Bake in hot oven until crumbs are lightly browned then add enough water to keep from sticking.
Cook 30 minutes, then add 1 can of condensed mushroom soup. Cook 10 minutes longer.

Glazed Onions

  • 2 dozen small white onions
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp water

Peel onions; cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain.
Melt butter, add sugar and water. Add onions, simmer to brown and glaze.

Pea and Carrot Salad

  • 2 cups small canned peas
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped olives
  • 2 chopped hard boiled eggs

Drain peas,grate carrot and chop other ingredients.
Just before serving toss all together with your favourite mayonnaise. Sprinkle chopped egg on top.
Also attractive if some chopped parsley or water cress added.

Maple Cream Dessert

  • 2 tbsp granulated gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped nut meats
  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • 1/2 cup marshmallows diced

Soften the gelatin in the cold water.
Scald the milk over hot water; add a small amount of it slowly to the egg yolk.
Return to the milk remaining in the double boiler and cook until the mixture coats the spoon. In the meantime stir in the salt and maple syrup.

Click here or the image to the left to download the PDF!

(Orono Weekly Times, 17 Apr 1941, p. 3.)

Clarington – What’s in a Name?

Our community is now quite familiar with the name Clarington, but did you ever stop to wonder, why is it called Clarington?

Well, the answer is not a simple one. In fact, the name Clarington has a rather interesting and controversial history behind it dating back to the 1970s. Clarington might have been Newcastle, Orchard Mills, or even Bowcastle…and these are just some of the proposed names! Clarington joins the names Clarke and Darlington. It originated from a naming committee, with input from residents, who voted in favour of Clarington in 1992.

In honour of #heritage week, Clarington Museums & Archives staff decided to take a closer look into how the name Clarington originated. The infographic below presents a brief timeline of some of the key debates and decisions that impacted the name.

If you would like to learn more or find the full articles of the newspaper clippings pictured below, please visit the Clarington Digital Newspapers Collection resource.

Remembrance Day: History & Heroes

Join veteran Larry Bryan as he takes a look at Remembrance Day through the lens of history. Mr. Bryan will discuss heroic individuals, why we wear a poppy, and the important act of remembrance.

Mr. Bryan is a Past Serving Member of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, member of the Glen’s Association, member of the Ontario Regiment Museum in Oshawa, member of the NATO Veterans Group, Cambridge Unit 5, member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 178, and an Honorary Member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

This program will be held at Clarington Public Library, Museums, & Archives Courtice Branch on Tuesday, November 8, at 6:00 p.m. Drop in; no registration required.

Spirit Walks

Hear tales of hauntings and history, stories and spirits, ghosts and genealogy! For more than 200 years, the people of Bowmanville have been building a repertoire of spooky local stories. The time has come to open Bowmanville’s historical vault and share some of our tales of eerie and unexplained phenomenon.

Join Clarington Public Library, Museums, and Archives on famous our bone-chilling, evening tours through the streets of Bowmanville. Over the course of the walk, you will hear ghostly accounts while being introduced to the town’s early history. Tours start at the Bowmanville Library Branch (163 Church Street) at 6:30pm and will finish there. Spirit Walk tickets must be purchased in advance through Eventbrite.

Spirit Walks are available on:

  • Monday, October 17th;
  • Wednesday, October 19th;
  • Monday, October 24th; and
  • Wednesday, October 26th.


Advanced registration recommended; space is limited. Register online, in person at any location, or by phone. Cost $13.25 + $1.36 non-refundable Eventbrite fee. Caregivers and support staff for people with disabilities are admitted free of charge.

Please note: This walking tour will take place outside, rain or shine. Tours will start and end at the Bowmanville Branch (163 Church St.); there will be no access to Waverley Place or the Sarah Jane Williams Heritage Centre during the tour.

Ticket sales begin Monday, October 3rd at 10:00 a.m.