Charles Howard

American, 1899-1978

SOLD Painting 1962 (IX), oil on canvas, 9 1/2 x 113 inches


Charles Houghton Howard was one of the vanguards of American artists who introduced European surrealism and biomorphic expressionism into the U.S. art world. His work is not only a surrealistic representation of the mind’s journey into the unconscious, but also an exploration of the sensing and feeling of self.

Charles Houghton Howard was born in Montclair, NJ. The Howard family moved to California in 1902 and, after graduating from Berkeley High School, Charles entered UC where he majored in journalism. While on a summer vacation in Europe in 1924, he met artist Grant Wood who influenced his decision to abandon a writing career and become a painter. Returning to NYC, he began painting and remained a self-taught artist. A modernist, his works are often surreal or abstract. During the WWII years he lived in San Francisco and taught at the CSFA in 1945. After the war he returned to England.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Howard’s biomorphic abstractions were shown in numerous Surrealist exhibitions in England and the United States. This work, executed in San Francisco in the summer of 1942, was the artist’s prize-winning entry in the Artists for Victory competition, held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art that winter. Although its iconography is obscure, Howard wrote that works like this were meant "to recall shapes and relations of things which are common to all mankind." As an artist Howard earned his place in American art history from his biological machinery abstractions and biomorphic paintings. He will also be remembered for helping to introduce European surrealism into the United States. Howard died on Nov. 11, 1978 in Bagni di Lucca, Italy.