Ken Howard O.B.E., R.A.


Born 1932

Artist's Biography & Works For Sale

Ken Howard, OBE, RA, is a post-war painter working in the British figurative tradition. His career spans more than fifty years and his many accolades and achievements include election to the Royal Academy (1991) and the presidency of the New English Art Club (1998-2003).

The vast majority of Howard’s paintings have an optimistic quality, the depiction of light being a key element – whether this is the daylight flooding into his London studio, the bright coastal light of Cornwall, or sunlight glinting on the Grand Canal in Venice. Studio nudes are a dominant theme in his prolific oeuvre, and he describes the figure as “a vehicle to express light within the space of the studio”. Art, for him, is about “revelation, communication and celebration”. He recalls an occasion early in his career when he was painting in a London railway yard and one of the railwaymen stopped to see what he was doing. The man watched for a while, then told Howard that this was the first time he had ever really noticed the true beauty of his familiar workplace…

Howard was born and brought up in London, and studied there too. The vertical and horizontal lines of London’s industrial cityscape have hugely influenced the way he represents his subjects; he describes how, even when painting from the model, it’s the shapes and lines of the surrounding studio space that will always draw his attention and somehow find their way into the finished picture. Indeed, the light-filled interior of Howard’s splendidly restored Edwardian artist’s studio (part of his London home) features in many of his paintings.

With parents who nurtured his obvious talents, Howard knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist. In an interview for BBC Radio 4, he tells the story of how, when he was only eight years old, a neighbour proudly displayed some of his paintings in a central London shop window – which resulted in the young Howard receiving a letter of encouragement from a professional art critic. From that moment on, art was his passion. He studied at Hornsey College of Art (1949-1953) and the Royal College of Art (1955-1958). His National Service (1953-1955) was spent in the Royal Marines, where he kept a meticulous sketchbook recording the soldiers’ everyday life. His first solo show was at Plymouth Art Centre in 1955, and he then won a British Council scholarship to Florence (1958-1959).

Howard has exhibited extensively, both nationally and internationally. He was given a retrospective at the Plymouth City Art Gallery in 1972 and his work is in a number of public collections, including the Guildhall Art Gallery, National Army Museum, Imperial War Museum and Ulster Museum. He was appointed Official War Artist to Northern Ireland in 1973 and 1979, and between 1973 and 1980 worked with the British Army in various other locations including Belize, Cyprus, Germany, Hong Kong and Nepal. Howard’s strong preference for making preparatory drawings of his subjects, rather than taking photographs, stood him in good stead during his time in Northern Ireland. He recalls that he “sat down and drew in some very hairy places” but never felt in danger. Carrying a sketchbook, it was obvious he was an artist; had he been carrying a camera, suspicions would have been aroused and the situation might have felt much more threatening.

Ken Howard was elected as a member of the New English Art Club in 1962, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1966, the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1979 and the Royal West of England Academy in 1981, and in 1988 he became an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of British Artists. In 1991 he joined the prestigious roster of Royal Academicians and in 1998 he was elected President of the New English Art Club. He has been awarded many prizes throughout his career, including the Lord Mayor’s Art Award (First Prize, 1966), the John Moores Exhibition (Prize Winner, 1978), the Hunting Group Awards (First Prize, 1985) and Sparkasse Karlsruhe (Critics’ Prize, 1985).

Striving for a personal visual language that is direct and easily recognisable, Howard says of his work, “My main inspiration is light, and it is through light that I want to celebrate my world”.

We also wish to buy original paintings by Ken Howard, so if you have one for sale please contact us for a free appraisal.