A graphic designer and artist, Bawden was a leading figure in the Great Bardfield School of painting, whose works centred around figurative work thus differentiating the members from the St Ives School of abstractionists.
Bawden was born in Braintree in Essex. At the age of seven he was copying Louis Wain’s cat drawings as well as Burne Jones’s Morte d’Arthur series. He studied at Cambridge School of Art and the Royal College of Art, in the latter place meeting Eric Ravilious; Paul Nash taught the two of them describing them as “an extraordinary outbreak of talent”.
A successful freelance career followed with commissions from, inter alia London Transport, Curwen Press, Morley College, Fortnum & Mason, Imperial Airways. Shortly after his marriage in 1932 he moved to Great Bardfield, painting the surrounding countryside – in additional to his commercial work.
An official War Artist during the war, he travelled widely and spent two months in a Vichy internment camp following the torpedoing of the RMS Laconia.
His post war career involved more painting, more illustration work and other commercial design, including the Festival of Britain in 1951, which he interspersed with teaching at the RCA, Goldsmiths, Royal Academy Schools and Leicester Polytechnic.