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.
For a detailed biography of Barbara
Howard click here »
Click the images for enlargements
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