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The Cliff Rowe collection was donated to People's History Museum (PHM) by the artist in 1985. The full collection includes over 1,600 paintings, prints and drawings. In July 2020, members of PHM's staff looked at the collection in the context of Covid-19 and picked paintings that resonated with them.


A lifelong socialist, Rowe focused a lot of his work on industry, working life, and people – he sought to achieve socially relevant art. Initially influenced by Socialist Realism prevalent in the Soviet Union, where he worked in the 1930s, Rowe slowly moved to more abstract art in the 1960s; though his dominant themes remained the same.

Artists featured in this Curation: Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
14 artworks
  • Woman Looking Through a Microscope

    'I particularly love the depictions of women in science and industry. The professional and unromantic insight into women's everyday lives of the time is rare and very valuable.'
    Kloe, Conservator

    Woman Looking Through a Microscope 1966
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 120 x W 106 cm
    People's History Museum
    Woman Looking Through a Microscope
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Pulping Machine

    ‘It reminds me of another life. It reminds me of 14 years making pulping and paper making machines. It reminds me of a hard working, unionised workforce. It reminds me of workers sold down the river, and it reminds me of a factory that's now houses. We need houses, I guess!’
    Simon, Archive Manager

    Pulping Machine 1967
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on panel
    H 53 x W 86 cm
    People's History Museum
    Pulping Machine
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Woman on Moped

    'I love this woman's style, her outfit is so cool and very 60s! I like how the artist has blurred the background to show her zooming past, and how happy she looks - I wonder where she is escaping to...'
    Fay, Programme Assistant

    Woman on Moped
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 61 x W 122 cm
    People's History Museum
    Woman on Moped
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Woman Cleaning Loco Boiler

    ‘I like how calm this woman appears in front of the huge steaming engine. I’ve been cleaning and daydreaming a lot during lockdown. She looks a bit like Alice in Wonderland, peering into that big black hole, I wonder where her daydreams take her?’
    Helen, Programme Manager

    Woman Cleaning Loco Boiler
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 93 x W 61 cm
    People's History Museum
    Woman Cleaning Loco Boiler
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Crane Operator

    ‘This painting reminded me of my struggle to grasp the need for a new fancy skyscraper to attract investors rather than provide affordable housing. However, I acknowledge the industry’s importance for the livelihoods of the construction workers I’ve observed from my window during lockdown. Such a vicious circle in fast growing capitalism!’
    Abir, CultureLabs Project Manager

    Crane Operator
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on paper on board
    H 122 x W 61 cm
    People's History Museum
    Crane Operator
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • By Chance

    'The style, design and colours of this painting leaped out for me – I love the patterns and the simple household objects. Planting, growing and caring for plants has been a lovely thing to do during lockdown – and not normally something I’m very good at – so a new skill learnt and appreciated.'
    Katy, Director

    By Chance
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 128 x W 57 cm
    People's History Museum
    By Chance
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Woman Silkscreen Printer

    ‘I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of the aerial angle on the Woman Silkscreen Printer painting combined with the detail on the screen prints and the women hard at work seems to celebrate industriousness, collaboration, technology and art all at once.’
    Sarah, Head of Business Development

    Woman Silkscreen Printer
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Acrylic on board
    H 90 x W 49 cm
    People's History Museum
    Woman Silkscreen Printer
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Old Lighthouse, Harwich

    ‘Looking at this painting, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia for the area where I grew up; I could almost smell the sea and hear the gulls flying over. I won’t see the Essex coastline for a while yet, so it’s nice to have this reminder.’
    Sam, Collections Officer

    Old Lighthouse, Harwich 1973
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Acrylic on board
    H 34 x W 93 cm
    People's History Museum
    Old Lighthouse, Harwich
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Woman Reclining on Bed

    'The painting makes me think about time and how this is controlled. Under the pandemic work has intensified for some people, brought into the home and mixed in with caring responsibilities. I like this painting because it shows a beauty in slowing down and staring into space.'
    Shirin, Researcher

    Woman Reclining on Bed
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on canvas
    H 61 x W 122 cm
    People's History Museum
    Woman Reclining on Bed
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Hospital Laundry Workers

    'I love these unsung heroes quietly making sure there are enough sheets to go around; a reminder of the essential work taking place behind the scenes in any hospital. This painting is all about clean, crisp lines and efficiency. You can practically smell the freshly laundered linen!'
    Petra, Vital Voters Project Manager

    Hospital Laundry Workers
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 20 x W 33 cm
    People's History Museum
    Hospital Laundry Workers
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Black Singer

    'I just find this image so powerful. The use of colour and shape to create the background, the suit, the flick of the mic, the emotion. You can almost feel the raw power coming off the singer as they smash through that final note.'
    Mike, Visitor Services Supervisor

    Black Singer 1969
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 97 x W 152 cm
    People's History Museum
    Black Singer
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Woman with Birdcage in Window

    ‘My favourite painting in PHM’s Cliff Rowe collection. I love the woman’s colourful top, mirrored in colours within the birdcage; a pop of fun in dark surroundings, and moreover the sense she’s taking a moment to daydream or connect with neighbours – something I’ve really valued when possible during lockdown.’
    Daisy, Communication & Marketing Officer

    Woman with Birdcage in Window 1931
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 61 x W 91 cm
    People's History Museum
    Woman with Birdcage in Window
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Southend

    'This painting reminds me of my hometown in the south of Spain and the many times that I have been reading books on the promenade... the sunny days, sunsets, or even when the sea was rough. Or those days when I used to go for a walk to the beach looking for seashells to make necklaces with them afterwards, it's a family tradition...'
    Miguel, Visitor Services Supervisor

    Southend 1971
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 90 x W 122 cm
    People's History Museum
    Southend
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum

  • Woman Potter

    ‘This image gives me a sense of calmness. Whilst lockdown has meant a period of anxiety and uncertainty, it has also 'forced' us to take time for ourselves, to spend in what we love to do more, the kind of things that make us feel better, our hobbies, our passions. How often do we actually remember to take some time for ourselves in our daily life?’
    Sara, Visitor Services Assistant

    Woman Potter
    Clifford Hooper Rowe (1904–1989)
    Oil on board
    H 122 x W 61 cm
    People's History Museum
    Woman Potter
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: People's History Museum