Gretta Bowen was born in Dublin, but moved north in 1921 when she married Matthew Campbell who wanted to start a catering business. He died four years later and so she took in boarders to support her and her three sons. Just before Gretta turned seventy, she came across some material and began to take an interest in painting. She ended up signing the pictures with her maiden name to be completely unique from her sons and then had her first show in Belfast in 1955. Bowen exhibited at Waddington Gallery, the Arts Council, The Royal Hibernian Academy and in various galleries in the United States, London, Dublin & Belfast.
The Times said in 1955, ‘Rhythm and movement are the characteristics of her work. There is nothing static in it. She will paint children at play, a fun fair, nuns in procession, children on their way to confirmation, a Twelfth of July Orange procession, a military band or a dockside scene – and whatever she paints conveys a feeling of happiness, of brightness, of delight in life.’