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Celebrating Ken Howard

Ken Howard OBE RA(British 1932-2022)

The artworld lost a huge talent with the death of Ken Howard last September.

Ken Howard needs little introduction. OBE RA, elected ARA in 1983, Honorary Member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1988, Royal Academician in 1991 and President of the New English Art Club from 1998 to 2003. He was elected an academician of the Royal West of England Academy in 1981 and has won countless awards.

Born in the north-west London, the younger of two children of Frank, a mechanic from Lancashire, and Elizabeth who worked as a cleaner, Howard recalled “painting properly from the age of seven and drawing and painting before I could write”.

It was an art teacher at Kilburn grammar school who encouraged the young Ken to apply to the nearby Hornsey College of Art, where he studied from 1949 to 1953. This was followed by national service in the Royal Marines, then two years at the Royal College of Art (1955-57).

In 1973, Ken Howard was sent by the Imperial War Museum to cover the Troubles in Northern Ireland as a war. To Howard’s surprise, he found that his habit 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.”

Despite showing in the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition for many years, he was nearing 60 before he was made a full Academician.

His sister married a Cornishman, and his parents bought a house in Mousehole which he subsequently inherited, “The fish markets of Newlyn and Venice are quite similar. Both share a particular red – Venetian curtains and the fish boxes in Newlyn. Cornwall is the closest to Italy in terms of light and water.”

For Ken, his main inspiration was light, and it was through light that he wanted to celebrate his world.

‘Mousehole Gap, Summer Sparkle’ beautifully demonstrates this. His palette is gentle and soothing – nothing is jarring. Howard admired the many tones of grey that Velasquez mastered and often imitated his palette. In this oil the light bounces off the water creating a magical sunset, transporting us somewhere we

have discovered or dreamt of. It is a jewel of a work and visually describes what Ken wanted us, the viewer to see….

For me painting is about three things. It is about revelation, communication, and celebration. By revelation I mean giving people a way of seeing, revealing the world around them in a way they have never seen before, opening their eyes

Ken Howard website


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