Ken Howard OBE 1932-2022

21 October 2022
Ken Howard
Rain Effect, London

Bellmans is honoured to be offering five exceptional examples of Ken Howard’s work, the diversity of which is a tribute to the artist, who sadly passed away in September this year.

Howard was born in Neasden on Boxing Day 1932 and displayed a natural artistic talent from an early age, painting and drawing skilfully prior to learning to write. His ability won him a place at the Hornsey College of Art where he received formal training between 1949 and 1953. He continued to paint during his national service, supplementing his income by painting portraits of Royal Marine officer’s wives before furthering his studies at The Royal College of Art.

In 1974 he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to depict the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He was not a war artist as war was never officially declared with the IWM simply instructing him to ‘…go over there and paint what I saw’. Royal Marines on Patrol on the Peace Line – Belfast (£1,500 - £2,500 + BP) shows how faithfully he followed that brief, perfectly capturing the tension and atmosphere with the patrolling soldiers scanning all directions while a young boy watches them pass.

Left: Royal Marines on Patrol on the Peace Line | Right: Silver Self Portrait

Howard’s pictures were regularly some of the first to sell at the Royal Academy Summer exhibitions; particularly popular were his studio interiors, often set in the Chelsea Studio previously used by Sir William Orpen. Rather than simply including the model as the sole subject, a signature Howard composition would encompass the work space as a whole including multiple easels, paint brushes; all the paraphernalia of an artist. Silver Self Portrait (£10,000 -£15,000 + BP) is a sublime example of this, the multiple reflective surfaces displaying Howard’s mastery of the play of light.

From the same collection, and acquired directly from the artist, is Rain Effect, London (£20,000 - £30,000 + BP), undoubtedly a Howard masterpiece. One of his largest works, the grandeur of the Royal Exchange, site of the new King’s recent proclamation, is perfectly portrayed. Facing west, a lone figure, possibly a self-portrait, hastily passes the London Troops War Memorial and the Wellington statue beyond; these poignant and permanent symbols of past conflicts are juxtaposed with the dense traffic and daily intensity of life in the Square Mile. The treatment of the rain is again brilliantly rendered, giving the City landmark an ethereal feel. Howard once claimed “For me painting is about three things. It is about revelation, communication and celebration…” elements which all come to the fore in this exceptional work which comes to the open market for the first time.

Left: Redentore, Venice Evening | Right: Venice

Another constant source of inspiration for Howard was Venice. Redentore, Venice Evening (£300 - £500 + BP) and Venice (£500 - £700 +BP) display the artist’s deft mastery of watercolour, with bold brushstrokes of layered wash perfectly capturing the unique quality of light over the Lagoon.

All five works will be offered in the sale of Modern British & 20th Century Art on 15th November 2022.

Article courtesy of Michael Grist, Bellmans' Senior Picture Specialist

Modern British and 20th Century Art | 15 November, 2pm

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