Remembering David Bowie As Neo-Expressionist Painter, Avid Art Collector, Friend of Warhol, Basquiat

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To call David Bowie a rock star is to bury da Vinci in the catacombs of period painter. The Starman who died three years ago today is best known as a gender-fluid chameleon who collaborated with a wide array of the world’s most talented musicians to crush genres and cultural norms, transforming across diverse personas in a galaxy of fame from the flamboyant Ziggy Stardust to a ravaged Blackstar. During a career spanning more than five decades, he created some of his most acclaimed musical and theatrical work in his last years, even as he secretly battled cancer.

Like any mere mortal, I'm busting up my brains for the words to define this legend who embraced the fine arts as much as music and performing arts. His swan song was an album and a musical that rattled audiences into cathartic tears, but along the way he created and collected a vast array of stunning fine art and befriended some of the boldest fine artists of his time such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Before his meteoric rise to fame, Bowie became fascinated by Warhol after seeing a 1971 screening of the pop icon’s play “Pork” in London. That experience led Bowie to write a song “Andy Warhol” as a single for his fourth studio album, “Hunky Dory.”

Here’s a look at some of the personas that transcend Bowie’s role as a rock 'n' roll star.

Humble Beginnings: Art Student

Born David Robert Jones on Jan. 8, 1947, in Brixton, London, England, the young man that would become Bowie studied art, music, and design, including layout and typesetting. Peter Frampton’s father, Owen Frampton, served as the highly-regarded head of an extensive art department at Beckenham Technical School in Bromley, Kent, where he taught both his own son and Bowie.

Upon the elder Frampton’s death in 2005, Bowie described the influential instructor as “an excellent art teacher and an inspiration.” The boys were close, bonding both while singing in a church choir and via a shared passion for skiffle, a music genre blending jazz, blues, folk, and American folk. They remained friends until Bowie died.

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