Charles T. Bowling, painter and lithographer active in the pre-World War II group of Regionalist artists known as the Dallas Nine, was born in June 1891 in Quitman, Texas, the fifth of eight children born to Robert W. and Grace Elizabeth (Long) Bowling. Shortly after Robert Bowling's death in 1900, the family moved to Dallas, where Charles attended public schools and worked part-time. Although he never completed high school, he cultivated his artistic skills through a series of sign-painting and draftsman jobs and began a forty-nine-year career as a draftsman and civil engineer for Texas Power and Light Company in 1916. He and Sadie Britt were married in Dallas around 1915; they had three sons and a daughter.
Bowling began studying fine art at age thirty-five, when a long convalescence at home left him with free time to sketch and paint. He subsequently studied with Olin H. Travis at the Dallas Art Institute and then pursued independent studies with Frank E. Klepper and Alexandre Hogue. Bowling developed a highly finished, realistic style that featured rural landscapes and urban scenes; he favored a subtle palette of grey, ochre, rust, and cool blue-green. He exhibited his work at the Dallas County Allied Arts Exhibition from 1930 to 1943, winning numerous purchase prizes and awards. During the Great Depression he befriended the Dallas circle of Regionalist artists and helped such artists as Otis M. Dozier and William Lester get drafting jobs. Bowling exhibited his work at the Texas Centennial Exposition (1936), the New York World's Fair (1939), and the Golden Gate Exposition (1939) and was honored with solo exhibitions at the Hockaday Junior College (1939) and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1941).
Bowling was a charter member and president of the Lone Star Printmakers, a print circuit operated from 1938 to 1942 by a number of Dallas Regionalist artists. Bowling found his métier in lithography, and he quickly emerged as one of the dominant talents in the group. In 1941 he acquired a lithographic press and began printing his own and other artists' work. He mastered a technique characterized by compositional clarity, rich textural range, and skillful gradation of tones that reinforced the lonely, somber mood of many of his landscape prints, which generally included just one or two figures, if any. Frequently he invested inanimate objects such as the twisting limbs of a tree or a telephone pole with expressive pathos. He also favored urban scenes that focused on the "side where the seams are," featuring Dallas Little Mexico in such prints as Industrial Encroachment (1939).
Bowling exhibited his work in Pennsylvania, in New York, and throughout the South and Southwest during the following years. He was a member of the Dallas Art Association, the Dallas Print Society, the Klepper Art Club, the Texas Fine Arts Association, and the Southern States Art League; he served on the board of directors of the TFAA. He continued to produce art until 1959, when his failing vision forced him to stop. He retired from Texas Power and Light in 1965 and died of a heart attack at the C. C. Young nursing home in Dallas on July 27, 1985. He was buried at Restland Memorial Park. In recognition of his friendship with Jerry Bywaters, Bowling's family donated twenty-six of his lithographs to the Jerry Bywaters Collection of Art of the Southwest at Southern Methodist University, which organized an exhibition of his work, The Lithographs of Charles T. Bowling (1891–1985), in 1991. Bowling's works are also included in the collections of the Witte Museum, San Antonio, the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery at the University of Texas at Austin, the Museums of Abilene (renamed The Grace Museum in 1998), and the Dallas Museum of Art.