LONDON -- Sir Lawrence Gowing,72, a distinguished art historian who was curatorial chairman of the Phillips Collection in Washington from 1987 to 1989, died Feb. 5 in a London hospital. He had heart ailments.

Sir Lawrence was curator of the collections of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. He helped the Phillips Collection mount a pastoral landscape exhibition in 1988 and, working in London and Washington, supervised a team preparing a comprehensive catalogue of its permanent collection.

Before his Phillips appointment, Sir Lawrence worked on an exhibition of the early works of Ce'zanne at Washington's National Gallery of Art, where he was Samuel H. Kress professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts for a year. He also taught at the University of Pennsylvania.

Sir Lawrence, a former deputy director of London's Tate Gallery, was a large, untidy-looking man with a stutter that some acquaintances said was deliberately exaggerated. From 1975 until his retirement in 1985, he was Slade professor of art at University College, London. He wrote more than 50 books and catalogues on the Old Masters and modern art and artists.

His book on the work of J.M.W. Turner, "Imagination and Reality," was published in 1966 in conjunction with an exhibition of Turner's art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Another book, "Paintings in the Louvre," was published in 1987 in Britain and sold well in the United States.

In the late 1930s, Sir Lawrence was an enthusiastic member of the Euston Road School of painters, founded by his tutor, William Coldstream, who rebelled against modernism and painted surroundings and friends realistically. In later life, Sir Lawrence painted in an abstract style.

His works are in museums in Britain, Canada and Australia.

Sir Lawrence's refusal to serve in World War II on grounds of conscience did not prevent the award to him in 1982 of a knighthood for services to art.

Survivors include his second wife, Jennifer, a daughter and two stepdaughters, all of London.