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Robert Boardman Howard

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Nationality  American
Spouse  Adaline Kent
Died  1983
Name  Robert Howard
Known for  Sculpture

Robert Boardman Howard Ansel Easton Adams Robert Boardman Howard San Francisco
Born  September 20, 1896New York City, New York

Robert Boardman Howard (1896–1983), was a prominent American artist active in Northern California in the first half of the twentieth century. He is also known as Robert Howard, Robert B. Howard and Bob Howard. Howard was celebrated for his graphic art, watercolors, oils, and murals as well as his Art Deco bas-reliefs and his "Modernist" sculptures and mobiles.



Howard was born in New York City on September 20, 1896, to architect John Galen Howard and society belle Mary Bradbury. When he was six years old, the family moved to Northern California. They settled in Berkeley where John G Howard was hired to supervise the erection of the Hearst Memorial Mining Building at the University of California. Robert completed grammar school, but dropped out of Berkeley High School and was tutored privately.

Between 1913 and 1916 he studied under Xavier Martinez, Eric Spencer Macky, Worth Ryder, and Perham Wilhelm Nahl at Berkeley's California School of Arts and Crafts (today's California College of the Arts). He became acquainted with Alexander Calder in 1915. After graduation he traveled across country on a motorcycle to New York City to continue his training at the Art Students League under Kenneth Hayes Miller and F. Luis Mora. He returned to California in 1918, joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and was sent to France. At the end of World War I he studied in Koblenz with the famous American printmaker, George Plowman, and in Paris at the Academie Colarossi and the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere. He again met Alexander Calder and the two traveled together. One of Howard's paintings, The Road to Hell, was accepted to the 1920 Salon in Paris and was later exhibited in San Francisco.

In February 1923 he found employment at the firm of J. H. Keefe in San Francisco making architectural ornaments. He crested several stage sets for the Berkeley Playhouse. In March 1925 his display of "Modernist" paintings and sculpture at San Francisco's Galerie des Beaux Arts created much interest as well as a storm of controversy over the "unfortunate nude" in his painting Misfortune in a Hayfield. Howard dismissed the hullabaloo and asserted his right to artistic freedom. That summer, after he completed "ornaments" for the new Temple Emanuel in San Francisco and for the First Congregational Church in Oakland, he traveled to Europe to study Romanesque sculpture. By December 1926 he had returned to the San Francisco Bay Area via New York City, and accepted several commissions to paint decorative mural maps for the bay ferries. The following spring and summer he exhibited frequently in Berkeley and San Francisco. He also began to experiment with articulated sculptures and created for the Puppet Players Theatre a series of marionettes, which were praised by the master puppeteer James Blanding Sloan. Most of 1928 was spent on a grand tour around the world. His letters describing adventures in Europe, the Middle East, India, Ceylon, and Indonesia were serialized in The Argus. In January 1929 the Galerie des Beaux Arts staged a one-man show of his recent drawings, watercolors, and carvings to rave reviews.

Three of the Howard brothers and two of their wives held a joint exhibition in the spring of 1935 at San Francisco's Paul Elder Gallery, where Robert's pastels and paintings were enthusiastically received. At the start of World War II he worked at the Camouflage Research Laboratories. Despite the challenges of his ever-increasing deafness, he began teaching in 1944 at the California School of Fine Arts (today's San Francisco Art Institute) and at Mills College in Oakland, where he was placed on the staff of the prestigious Creative Arts Workshop. In October 1947 he premiered his "non-objective" art film Meta, which depicted the slow-motion action of various colors dropped into water. In January 1949 the University of California at Berkeley staged a massive retrospective exhibition of all facets of his art.

Robert Boardman Howard died on February 18, 1983 in Santa Cruz, California at the age of 86.

Personal life

Howard was married to fellow artist Adaline Kent on August 5, 1930, after they worked together on the Pacific Stock Exchange building, a Miller and Pflueger architecture firm project. The couple had two children, Ellen and Galen. Adaline died tragically on March 1, 1957 in an auto accident.

Notable works

Some notable work Howard created includes: a bas-relief of a phoenix at Coit Tower, the reliefs at the Paramount Theatre (1931–32; specifically the reliefs on the auditorium walls, stage and ceiling), the 1935 cast-iron bas-relief for the Badger Pass Ski House in Yosemite National Park, the 1939 sculpture entitled The Whales created for the G.G.I.E.(once a fountain, it was placed later in front of the California Academy of Sciences, but is now located at City College of San Francisco) as well as four massive murals and assorted sculptures for other G.G.I.E. pavilions, including the Brazil Building, California Building, Western State Building, and Ghirardelli Building, two bas-reliefs in cast stone titled Power and Light, at the Pacific Gas and Electric Mission Substation in San Francisco, the City Club of San Francisco's grand staircase balusters, the linen-based mural in the Mural Room at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, the massive bas-reliefs of dancing and musical figures on the exterior of the Berkeley High School Community Theatre, and the 1958 sculpture Hydro-Gyro at the San Jose IBM Research Center.


For a more complete list, including some reviews and exhibited titles, see note

  • 1920 - Salons des Artistes Français, Paris, France;
  • 1921-1951 - Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA;
  • 1921-1972 (with prizes in 1923, 1924, 1925, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1946) San Francisco Art Association Annuals, San Francisco, CA;
  • 1922 – Salons of America, New York, NY;
  • 1922-1924 - Annual Exhibitions of the Arts & Crafts Club, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA;
  • 1923 – National Sculpture Society (N.S.S.), NY;
  • 1923 - Western Painters of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA;
  • 1923 - Print Rooms (Robert Howard's first one-man exhibition), San Francisco, CA;
  • 1923-1930 - The League of Fins Arts, Berkeley, CA;
  • 1923-1933 – Gallerie des Beaux Arts, San Francisco, CA;
  • 1923-1947 – Oakland Art Gallery, Oakland, CA;
  • 1927 - American Institute of Graphic Arts, Oakland, CA;
  • 1927 - California State Fair, Sacramento, CA;
  • 1927 - Boston Art Club, Boston, MA;
  • 1927 - American Institute of Architects, San Francisco, CA;
  • 1927-1928 Modern Gallery Group at the East-West Gallery, San Francisco, CA;
  • 1932-1948 – California Palace of the Legion of Honor (C.P.L.H), San Francisco, CA;
  • 1933 - Gump's Gallery, San Francisco, CA;
  • 1935-1976 – San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMA), CA;
  • 1936-1947 - Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL;
  • 1937 – Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.;
  • 1937, 1941, 1943, 1944 – San Francisco Art Association First Medal for Sculpture
  • 1939 – World's Fair, New York, NY;
  • 1939 – Golden Gate International Exposition (G.G.I.E.), San Francisco, CA;
  • 1943-1950 – de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA;
  • 1948-1956 – Whitney Museum of American Art (W.M.A.A.), New York, NY;
  • 1949 – University of California at Berkeley, CA;
  • 1951 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY;
  • 1951-1955 – São Paulo, Brazil;
  • 1962 - World's Fair, Seattle, WA;
  • 1962-1964 – Salon de Mai, Paris, France;
  • 1969-1974 – Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA.
  • 1971 – San Francisco Art Commission, San Francisco, CA;
  • Awards

  • 1946 – "for Eyrie," San Francisco Art Association;
  • 1951 – "Night Watch," San Francisco Art Commission;
  • 1955 – "Rocket," San Francisco Art Institute.
  • Membership

    California Society Mural Artists, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMA), UC Berkeley Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).


    Robert Boardman Howard Wikipedia

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