Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howard, Henry (1769-1847)

HOWARD, HENRY (1769–1847), portrait and historical painter, was born in London on 31 Jan. 1769. He received his elementary education at a school at Hounslow, and at the age of seventeen became a pupil of Philip Reinagle, R.A., whose daughter he afterwards married. In 1788 he was admitted a student of the Royal Academy, where in 1790 he gained the first silver medal for the best drawing from the life, and at the same time the gold medal for historical painting, the subject, taken from Mason's dramatic poem 'Caractacus,' being 'Caractacus recognising the Dead Body of his Son.' He went to Italy in 1791, taking with him a letter of introduction from Sir Joshua Reynolds to Lord Hervey, then British minister at Florence, in which Sir Joshua said of his 'Caractacus' that 'it was the opinion of the Academicians that his picture was the best that had been presented to the Academy ever since its foundation.' At Rome he met Flaxman and John Deare, and joined them in a diligent study of sculpture. In 1792 he painted the 'Dream of Cain' from Gesner's 'Death of Abel,' and sent it to England in competition for the travelling studentship of the Royal Academy; but, although his picture was admitted to be the best, the studentship was awarded to the second, but less affluent, candidate. He returned home in 1794 by way of Vienna and Dresden, and exhibited at the Royal Academy his 'Dream of Cain.' In 1795 he sent three small pictures and a portrait, and in 1796 a finished sketch, from Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' of ‘The Planets drawing Light from the Sun,’ and other works. He made some designs for Sharpe's 'British Essayists,' Du Roveray's edition of Pope's translation of Homer, and other books, and he painted some of his own designs on the vases made at Wedgwood's pottery. In 1799 he exhibited a sketch from Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream;' 'A Mermaid sitting on a Dolphin's back,' one of his most beautiful compositions; and in the same year he was first employed by the Dilettanti Society to make drawings from ancient sculpture for their publications. He was afterwards engaged on similar work for the Society of Engravers. In 1800 he exhibited at the Royal Academy 'Eve' and 'The Dream of the Red Cross Knight,' and was elected an associate. His contributions to the exhibition of 1801 included 'Achilles wounded by Paris from behind the Statue of Apollo,' 'The Angel awaking Peter in the Prison,' and 'Adam and Eve;' to that of 1802, 'Love animating the Statue of Pygmalion,' now in the South Kensington Museum; and to that of 1803, 'Love listening to the Flatteries of Hope' and a portrait of Sir Humphry Davy. In 1805 he exhibited 'Sabrina,' the first of a series of pictures from Milton's 'Comus,' which furnished him with subjects almost to the end of his career; he also commenced the artistic supervision of Forster's 'British Gallery of Engravings,' and the 'British Gallery of Contemporary Portraits.' In 1805, too, he painted for Mr. Hibbert an extensive frieze representing the story of Cupid and Psyche, and exhibited a picture of 'Hero and Leander,' engraved by F. Engleheart for the 'Gem' of 1829, which was followed in 1807 by 'The Infant Bacchus brought by Mercury to the Nymphs of Nysa.' In 1806 he removed to 5 Newman Street, which had been the residence of Thomas Banks, R.A., the sculptor, and resided there until the end of his life. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1808, and presented as his diploma work ‘The Four Angels loosed from the Great River Euphrates,’ which had been exhibited at the British Institution in 1806, and engraved by William Bond. In the same year he sent to the Royal Academy ‘Peasants of Subiaco returning from the Vineyard on a Holiday,’ now in the South Kensington Museum. In 1809 he exhibited ‘Titania’ and ‘Christ blessing Young Children,’ which forms the altar–piece at St. Luke’s, Berwick Street, London. He became secretary of the Royal Academy in 1811, and exhibited in that year ‘Iris and her train;’ in 1813 a large picture of ‘Hebe,’ and in 1814 that of ‘Sunrise,’ since better known as ‘The Pleiades,’ and engraved by W. D. Taylor. This picture he afterwards sent to the British Institution in competition for the premiums offered, receiving only the second premium of one hundred guineas, the first having been awarded to Sir George Hayter [q. v.] for a head; but he sold the picture to the Marquis of Stafford, and painted a replica of it for Sir John Leicester. In 1814 also, on the occasion of the visit of the allied sovereigns, he was commissioned to paint the large transparencies for the Temple of Concord erected in Hyde Park; he was assisted by Stothard, Hilton, and others. Among his contributions to the exhibition of 1815 was ‘Morning,’ and to that of 1816 ‘The Punishment of Dirce.’ In 1818 he painted for Lord Egremont ‘The Apotheosis of the Princess Charlotte,’ and sent to the Royal Academy ‘Fairies,’ the best of his smaller works, now in the collection of Sir Matthew White Ridley, to whom belongs also ‘The Birth of Venus,’ exhibited in 1819, the finest of all Howard’s pictures. ‘Lear and Cordelia,’ now in the Soane Museum, and a ‘Study of Beech Trees in Knole Park,’ bought by Lord Egremont, appeared at the Academy in 1820; ‘The House of Morpheus,’ also bought by Lord Egremont, in 1821; ‘Ariel released by Prospero’ and ‘Caliban teased by the Spirits of Prospero’ in 1822; and ‘The Solar System’ in 1823. These were followed in 1824 by ‘A Young Lady in the Florentine Costume of 1500,’ a portrait of the painter’s daughter, engraved by Charles Heath for the ‘Literary Souvenir’ of 1827, and purchased by Lord Colborne; it was so much admired that Howard painted some replicas of it, and other portraits in a similar style. In 1825 he exhibited at the Royal Academy ‘Guardian Angels;’ in 1826, ‘Hylas carried off by the Nymphs,’ bought by Lord Egremont; in 1829, ‘Night,’ a companion to the ‘Solar System;’ in 1830, ‘Shakespeare nursed in the Lap of Fancy;’ in 1831, ‘Circe;’ and in 1832, ‘The Contention of Oberon and Titania;’ the last three are in the Soane Museum.

In 1833 Howard was appointed to the professorship of painting in the Royal Academy, and the lectures which he delivered were published by his son, Frank Howard [q. v.], in 1848. In 1833, also, he exhibited his ‘Chaldean Shepherd contemplating the Heavenly Bodies,’ and in 1834 ‘The Gardens of Hesperus.’ His next important work was an adaptation of the ‘Solar System’ for the ceiling of the Duchess of Sutherland’s boudoir at Stafford House, executed in 1834, and followed in 1835 by subjects from the story of ‘Pandora,’ and in 1837 by a modification of Guido’s ‘Aurora’ for ceilings in the Soane Museum. He also drew from life the illustrations for Walker’s work on ‘Beauty,’ published in 1836. Among his later works may be noted ‘The Infant Bacchus brought by Mercury to the Nymphs of Nysa,’ exhibited in 1836; ‘The Rising of the Pleiades,’ 1839; ‘The Rape of Proserpine,’ 1840; and ‘A Mermaid sitting on a Dolphin’s back,’ 1841; the first and last being replicas on a larger scale of earlier works. Howard took part unsuccessfully in the Westminster Hall competition of 1842. He continued to exhibit, but with rapidly failing powers, until 1847, when, much to the regret of his friends, he sent to Westminster Hall a second cartoon, ‘Satyrs finding a Sleeping Cyclops.’ Howard died at Oxford on 5 Oct. 1847.

As an artist Howard was never popular. His early works were his best, and many of them were engraved for the ‘Literary Souvenir,’ ‘Keepsake,’ ‘Gem,’ and other annuals. His art is seen to highest advantage in the Soane Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and in Lord Leconfield’s collection at Petworth House, Sussex. The Vernon Collection at the National Gallery includes ‘The Flower Girl,’ a replica of the portrait of the painter’s daughter exhibited in 1824; it has been engraved by F. R. Wagner, and is now on loan to the Corporation of Stockport. The South Kensington Museum contains his ‘Sabrina,’ exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821; and ‘Pygmalion.’ The National Portrait Gallery possesses portraits by him of James Watt, William Hayley, John Flaxman, R.A., Mrs. Flaxman, and Mrs. Trimmer.

[Memoir by his son, Frank Howard, prefixed to his ‘Course of Lectures on Painting,’ 1848; Times, 9 Oct. 1847; Athenæum, 1847, pp. 1059, 1176, partly reprinted in Gent. Mag. 1847, ii. 646–8; Art Journal, 1847, p. 378; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves, 1886–9, i. 684; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy of Arts, 1862, i. 329–31; Redgrave's of Arts, 1862, i. 329–31; Redgrave’s Century of Painters, 1866, ii. 164-7; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1794-1847; British Institution Exhibition Catalogues (Living Artists), 1806-43.]

R. E. G.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.161
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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36 ii 34 Howard, Henry (1769-1847): after 1847. insert He left three sons, Frank Howard [q. v.], William, advocate-general in Bombay, who was killed while hunting in 1862, and Edward Irvine, founder of the 'Bombay Quarterly,' who was killed in a railway accident in 1868.