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William Henry Howe

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William Henry Howe
Lyme Art Colony
American, (November 22, 1846–March 16, 1929) In Lyme: periodically, 1900-1920; 1914 article in "The Day" (New London) indicates that Howe will spend the summer at the Griswold house for the first time in five years.
During the early years of this century Howe's national prominence as a painter of cattle appeared secure. His paintings sold well and were often placed in prestigious museums throughout the country. As the popularity of animal painting declined, Howe's spirits sank as well. In 1918 he wrote to Miss Florence, "I am blue as indigo. Have done nothing in the way of sales this winter and no prospects."

William Henry Howe was born in Ravenna, Ohio. After serving in the Civil War, he settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He worked initially as a clerk in a dry goods store, but soon developed an interest in the study of art. Encouraged by friends, Howe enrolled at the Royal Academy at Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1880. After a year's study there he left to study animal painting in France and Holland and first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1883. His carreer rose rapidly, with numerous awards in both France and America.

Howe returned to the united States in 1893 and he and his wife settled in Bronxville, New York, an artistic community which attracted a number of prominent painters, due to its rugged charms and proximity to New York City. Through his friendship with Henry Ward Ranger, whom he met during previous aummers painting in Laren, Holland, Howe first came to Old Lyme in 1900. Well-liked and respected by artist members, Howe boarded at the Griswold house for many summers. He also brought his nephew, Will Howe Foote, who was to become a leading artist with the colony.

William Howe, or "Uncle Howe" as he was called, was fondly remembered by the artists. He was generous, good-natured, and patiently tolerant of the pranks, teasings (his paintings were often refered to as "Howe's cows"), and compromises that came with colony life. At mealtimes he generally sat at the head of the table, where as "an expert in animal anatomy" he had the honor of carving the roast.

Despite the declining popularity of his work, Howe continued to paint landscapes and cattle in the tradition of Constant Troyon and Rosa Bonheur. In 1898 he received an honor he considered the crowning point of his career - the French government awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honor, an honor rarely given to foreign artists.

Additional Reading: "Old Lyme: The American Barbizon" exhibition catalogue, Florence Griswold Museum, 1982.

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