The Last Impressionist

The Last Impressionist

Last year, Britain lost one of its best-loved painters – Ken Howard OBE RA (1932-2022). With his impressionistic, painterly technique, his works are instantly recognisable and have delighted the nation for nearly seventy years. Our upcoming April 25 Modern & Contemporary Art sale offers a variety of paintings from this celebrated artist. 

15 March 2023

Ken Howard has remained in the public view through his annual entries in the Royal Academy Summer Show and his prolific output; he is said to have created an astonishing 350 paintings per year. His vast productivity was due to him being a self-confessed workaholic. When in Cornwall, he would have a model coming in every morning for six days a week. This strict routine kept the momentum going. If he felt he had an unsuccessful attempt the previous day, he could not pause and wallow - he had to get up and carry on, thus reinvigorating his enthusiasm for the painting. Unfortunately, during his last illness, he was unable to paint, and being inactive was of great frustration to a man who had led such an extremely busy life.

Ken Howard grew up in working-class London and in 1949 began his artistic schooling at Hornsey College of Art. Following his national service in the Royal Marines, he went on to the Royal College of Art (1955-57). Abstract Expressionism was all the rage with his fellow students, but Ken knew that he wanted to be a figurative painter. He was ‘out of kilter’ with his peers and his work continued to be outside the fashionable mainstream for the rest of his life. He was popular with the public, but less so with the critics.

With his realist approach to painting, he focused on what he could see and one of his main sources of inspiration was light. Howard’s paintings celebrate the world through light, whether it be flooding through the studio window on to a model, bouncing off the buildings in Venice or sparkling on the beaches of Cornwall.

Ken Howard RA (b.1932) 'SARAH REFLECTING' £29,900

Ken Howard RA (b.1932) 'SARAH REFLECTING' £29,900

This can be seen in the many works Sworders have sold by Howard in recent years, including ‘Sarah Reflecting’ in 2020 which, at a price of nearly £30,000, is the second-highest auction result for the artist. We are delighted to be offering a further five oils in our 25 April Modern & Contemporary Art sale.

In ‘Sarah, Silver and Black’ (est. £6,000-8,000), she is seated with the familiar gaze as she looks out to the light of the window. The artist’s sensitive depiction of models in the studio has led to this being one of his most popular subjects.

'Sarah, Silver and Black’ (est. £6,000-8,000) (Top left), ‘Golden Evening, Sennen’ (est. £5,000-7,000) (Top right), ‘Summer of ‘95’ (est. £3,000-5,000) (Bottom)

'Sarah, Silver and Black’ (est. £6,000-8,000) (Top left), ‘Golden Evening, Sennen’ (est. £5,000-7,000) (Top right), ‘Summer of ‘95’ (est. £3,000-5,000) (Bottom)

With studios in London, Venice and Cornwall, city scenes and beachscapes have also become synonymous with Ken Howard. In our April sale, we have an oil sketch of ‘View to the Campanile’ (est. £600-800) showing the highlights on the historic buildings in Venice. Closer to home, we have ‘Golden Evening, Sennen’ (est. £5,000-7,000) with its sparkling waves and twinkling rooftops. Another Cornish delight, ‘Summer of ‘95’ (est. £3,000-5,000), shows a very British scene, as the soft tones of the bathers and the beach are juxtaposed with the vibrant stripy windbreakers.

Ken Howard’s commercial success led to him being seen as a statesman of traditional British art. He will be missed in the art world by both collectors and fellow artists, but through his numerous paintings we can remember him - as he described himself - as ‘the last Impressionist’.


To find out more about our upcoming 25 April Modern & Contempoary Art sale, please contact




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