Personality in artists is highly important. They have to get on with their dealer, models, galleries and museums, and in the case of Ken Howard clientele, a selection of whom he invited to his studio in the week. Ken’s studio home is just off the Boltons and once belonged to Irish portraitist Sir William Orpen. It’s amazing that given the rich fashionability of the quarter it was never converted. Ken started as a tenant but as he and his work prospered he acquired first the studio and then the house next door. He now has a valuable asset as well as a studio with magnificent natural lighting, one which features in much of his work.
He sold his first painting as a 16 year old in the late forties for £2 to David Brown, who then made tractors. Subsequently he became the DB of Aston Martin fame. The buyer asked Ken to drop off the painting and as Ken was the Hornsey School of Art (school, as Ken noted, not college) it was easy for him to pass by Brown’s flat in Highgate. There he was amazed to see paintings of Monet, Vuillard, Sisley and Bonnard. Brown said he never paid £25 for any of them, or indeed any picture.
Ken also told a story which, before I am accused of non-PC homophobia, was first told to me by the two men who featured in a pictture shown here on the Rust painted of them by Ken in their Brighton flat. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy show. Someone was heard to say loudly “Not too much decent here except Ken Howard’s picture of two poofs”. This was within earshot of the men themselves but the first time I heard this at the Richard Green gallery, who represent Ken, was from the men themselves with much guffawing who now always refer to the picture in those terms.
Over the years I have advised people on building a collection. I tell them to buy Ken Howard’s works as his depiction of light is most uplifting but it also rises in value. However much you tell someone to buy something they like on their wall they do expect – understandably enough – to have some financial appreciation too on what can be a substantial investment. In the case of Ken you have the possibility of meeting an engaging man who is also Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy and he will inspire anyone who has collecting ambitions.