Barbara Howard, R.C.A.
1926 - 2002

Throughout her five decades as a professional artist, Barbara Howard was committed to making images that could transmit her profound experiences of the natural world. In the 1950s she lived in London, following her graduation from the Ontario College of Art, immersing herself in European art and the English landscape. Returning to Canada, she travelled to Vancouver Island to experience the power and mystery of the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach. Her drawings and paintings during the 1960s and 70s reveal a fascination for certain aspects of landscape: views across water, fields and forests by moonlight, shorelines, colour and light.

Based in Toronto for most of her life, Howard found subject matter nearby at Lake Simcoe, Stoney Lake, the Albion Hills and the Toronto Islands. However, she was never concerned with portraying the specifics of a particular place: rather, she observed natural phenomena with the greatest attention in order to express a more universal experience.

In 1960 Howard added wood-engraving to her repertoire of media when she and her husband, the poet Richard Outram, launched the Gauntlet Press. For 30 years Howard produced small engravings in collaboration with Outram's poems, publishing numerous small books and broadsides. Together they printed the work on a small letterpress, then Howard bound the books by hand. These books are prized by collectors and can be found in many public collections such as the National Library of Canada, the Library of Congress, the British Library and the University of Toronto Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

During a visit to Vancouver Island's China Beach in the 1980s, Barbara Howard encountered the carcass of a beached whale. Her attention was caught by the plight of the great whales today, and for nearly a decade she devoted herself to learning about them and trying to convey their mystery and grandeur. Some of these paintings are as large as six feet by eighteen feet. Most have never been exhibited.

In the late 1990s until her death in 2002, Barbara Howard returned to her lifelong fascination with light, night skies, the reflective surface of water. In these paintings, the recurrence of circular elements, an abstraction of natural forms and a balancing of darkness and light all suggest the artist's deep feeling for the natural world and a celebration of its unity.

 

 



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Barbara Howard 1952

Barbara Howard 1986

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"In my painting (as in all my work) I am deeply involved with light as the movement and inter-action of colours; the integrity of colour and form, hence with the integrity of the total work which has to do with spirit and abstract essence, not representation. I am preoccupied with life's ambiguities and dualities and in my later work I am reaching more and more from the dark toward light, freedom, and a transcending exuberance."

- Barbara Howard

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