No Mere Amateur; FINE ART

The Journal (Newcastle, England), July 30, 2013 | Go to article overview

No Mere Amateur; FINE ART


He was born into fabulous wealth but George Howard just wanted to concentrate on his art. A new exhibition at Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery in Carlisle focuses on Howard the painter.

Alan Sykes was at the preview for Culture George Howard (1843-1911) has always had a loyal group of admirers, but he has never been widely regarded. Although he did exhibit and sell paintings during his lifetime, he was rich enough not to have to.

He turned down commissions as he didn't want to "take the bread out of the mouths of other artists" - he having quite enough bread for his own mouth.

However, his wife was thrilled when he sold his first painting, writing: "I am glad George has sold Emilia and now he is no longer a mere amateur."

Far from being an artist starving in a garret, Howard was the heir to extensive estates.

He inherited Naworth Castle, Castle Howard, nearly 80,000 acres and an income of around PS50,000 a year.

His family expected him to go into politics, but Howard was much more interested in art. Although he dutifully served as an MP for two sessions, painting always took first place.

On graduating from Cambridge, he arranged to have lessons with two leading artists of the day, as well as learning from his close friend Edward Burne-Jones.

Howard's carefully observed landscapes are relatively well-known, but the Tullie House exhibition shows quite what an accomplished portrait painter he was as well.

There is a wall of pencil sketches which acts as a remarkable 'Who's Who' of Victorian society.

Thomas Carlyle, Browning and Tennyson are there, as is Ruskin - his The Elements of Drawing was an important influence on Howard - and also his friends, Burne-Jones and William Morris.

The Prime Minister, William Gladstone, who appointed him a trustee of the National Gallery, is shown frowning over a book.

He wrote in his diary: "GH made the most clever sketch of me in the forenoon."

Members of his family were also frequent subjects for his portraits.

In one of them, his youngest daughter Aurea is shown sitting on a 17th Century chair at Castle Howard.

A photograph shows us that she was listening to an older sister reading a book to her at the time, no doubt to help reduce the boredom of sitting still.

In another we see the sparkling eyes and intelligent-looking features of his mother-inlaw, Lady Stanley of Alderley.

She was one of the founders of Girton College, the first residential college for women at Cambridge University.

Howard's wife wrote of this one: "George has been painting Mama all day and has really succeeded at last in making an excellent portrait."

Travelling provided Howard with many subjects for his paintbrush.

As well as extensive tours through Europe, he also ventured further afield - to India, the Caribbean, Egypt and Morocco.

He twice went further south - first to the Sudan, after his son Hubert was killed at the battle of Omdurman, and later to South Africa while two other sons were fighting in the Boer War.

The landscape of the North of England was Howard's greatest love and he returned to it again and again. …

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