Ken Howard – Jasie, 1993

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Ken Howard, British (1932-2022)
Jasie, 1993

Medium: Oil on canvas
Canvas size: 24 x 20 inches
Framed size: 30 x 26 inches
Signature: Signed (Lower Right) and signed verso with a description

Private collection, United Kingdom

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Ken Howard studied at Hornsey School of Art from 1949 to 1953. After his time at Hornsey school of art, he completed his National Service with the Royal Marines before returning to study at the Royal College of Art from 1955 to 1958. An art teacher at Kilburn grammar school encouraged Howard to apply to Hornsey college of art to explore the talent he possessed. Once Howard finished his course at the royal college of art, he went on to win a British Council Scholarship to Florence from 1958 to 1959.

In 1973, Ken Howard was sent by the Imperial War Museum to cover the Troubles in Northern Ireland as a war artist. Throughout this time, Howard was surprised that his technique of painting en plein air made him friends on both sides of the sectarian divide. “If you used a camera, you were in trouble,” he said. “If you sat on the street and drew, and they could see what you were doing, then you weren’t in trouble.” Howard even claimed that a man in the Falls Road biddably blew up a car to make it more picturesque for his brush. One day Howard noticed a young Irish boy he saw swinging from a lamp post. This boy would become the focus of his best-known work ‘Ulster Crucifixion, 1978’. This piece can be found at the National Museums Northern Ireland. The raw paint of this artworks background both depicts and echoes the graffitied walls of west Belfast. Its child subject hangs from the post as though from a cross. The first work he sold was of the shipyards at Aberdeen, where he had been taken by a lorry-driving uncle just after the war: the painting was bought by David Brown, the future owner of Aston Martin. Howard insisted these early years influenced the core of his work that the grounding in industrial grime had shaped his art. “I was brought up surrounded by the horizontal and vertical structures of railway yards and factories,” he said. “I am not a landscape painter, but rather a vertical and horizontal painter.”

Howard married three times: first, in 1962, to Annie Popham, a dress designer. The couple finalized their divorce in 1974; then, in 1990, to the Hamburg-born painter Christa Gaa Köhler, whom he had met in Florence in the 1950s, She sadly died of cancer in 1992; and last, in 2000, to the Italian photographer Dora Bertolutti. The two lived happily, along with a stepson and two stepdaughters.

Across his years as a professional painter, Howard achieved many milestones. The same year as his first marriage, Howard was elected a member of the New English Art Club in 1962. A few years later the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1966, then the Royal West of England Academy 1981. In 1988 he became an honorary Member of the Royal Society of British Artists and President of the New English Art Club in 1998, only 10 years apart. Among his numerous awards are First Prize in the Lord Mayor’s Art Award in 1966.

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