Alan Gowans was born in Toronto. He obtained an M.A. from the University of Toronto in 1946, an M.F.A. from Princeton University in 1948 and a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1950. He taught at a number of American universities before his appointment in 1966 as Chair of the Division of Art History in the Department of Fine Arts at UVic. He retired in 1988. He published several books on art and architectural history, including Images of American living; Four centuries of architecture and furniture (1964), and The restless art: A history of painters and painting, 1760-1960 (1966).