Robin Jared Stanley Howard's (1924 - 1989) deep passion and unsparing patronage of the arts began with a love of modern dance and spread to almost every genre of creative expression from music to modern art. As the eldest son of Sir Arthur Howard and Lady Lorna Baldwin, daughter of Stanley Baldwin, the British Prime Minister in the 1920s and 30s, Robin Howard's youth was marked by a grave physical trauma. Fighting with gallantry in the Scots Guards during the Second World War, Howard lost both of his legs in battle the last year of conflict. Returning to London in the 1950s, he turned away from his previous ambition of becoming a lawyer, instead purchasing various hotels throughout England, the first of which became The Gore Hotel in Queensgate, South Kensington. Establishing a reputation for excellent cuisine and elegant lodging, Howard's passion for wine revealed itself when the hotel rightly boasted of having London's longest wine list. Robin Howard's vision for life, from his choice to invest in hotels to his patronage of the arts was brilliantly avant-garde and ahead of its time. Coming from a familial background, steeped in the British aristocracy, Howard was able to look beyond the immediate confines of his social set embracing and inspiring innovative and incredibly influential ideas in art, music, dance and almost every other aspect of culture he graced with his involvement. 1 (for further genealogy please see footnote)
Howard's foray into the arts began chiefly with his discovery and love affair with modern dance. In 1954, Martha Graham brought her contemporary dance company to the United Kingdom for the first time, fortuitously choosing to stay at The Gore. Upon viewing their free-flowing and expressive dance form, Howard was overwhelmed, encouraging Graham to return to Britain and perform at the Edinburgh Festival, personally guaranteeing to underwrite the expenses of the production. From then on, Howard became dedicated to bringing modern dance to England and in 1966 he founded the London Contemporary Dance Trust, inviting Robert Cohan, one of Graham's principle dancers, to become artistic director of the school.
However, Robin Howard's philanthropic pursuits were not limited to the arts. Responding to the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary in 1953, Howard became deeply distressed and sought to take action against this upset. In reaction to his vocalism and advocacy for Hungary, he was asked by the United Nations to establish the Hungarian Department, dealing with the placement and care of refugees and displaced persons looking for solace in the United Kingdom. His great humanitarianism led him to serve as Honorary Director of the United Nations International Services department from 1955-1963.
Howard's generosity was legendary. It gave him enormous pleasure to share his loves, from art, to dance to fine wine with friends and admirers. On one extraordinary occasion, where I had the chance to spend time with Robin, I asked if his interest in dance was a result of losing his legs. He paused, mused a little and replied that he did not think so, that his love of dance was much deeper than that, it was for him the most profound form of human communication, a force for good. On another occasion exemplary of Howard's generous disposition, a number of us enjoyed a double magnum of Krug 1955 and Robin's response to our enthusiasm and ardent appreciation was typical - he opened a second one.
Robin Howard's first introduction to Francis Newton Souza and Modern Indian Art came from his involvement with Gallery One in London. Directed by the famed art dealer and poet, Victor Musgrave, the gallery, located in London's bohemian SoHo District, was notorious for both his refusal to show any known artists and its program focusing on the new and shocking genre of Outsider Art. Howard's involvement in this extremely influential and avant-garde gallery was great, as he was a silent investor in Musgrave's project. When Souza arrived in London in the 1950s he was destitute and flat broke. A kindly anonymous donor paid him a stipend so that he could continue to create his ingenious canvases. Although this tantalizing connection cannot be proved so long after the event, family lore relates that the anonymous benefactor was in fact Robin Howard. Exhibited alongside artists like Jean Dubuffet, the Fluxus Collective, Yves Klein, Nam June Paik, and Bridget Riley, Francis Newton Souza had several important solo shows there beginning in 1955. It was Robin Howard personally who became captivated by the vivacious talent of Souza, encouraging him to submit works for his first major exhibition in London.
Over the next four decades, Francis Newton Souza became one of the most venerated Indian artists of the 20th century. His relationship with Robin Howard marked the genesis of an artistic career which has only recently come fully into the public view. The following two lots, (lots 39 and 63) offered in this sale were formerly from the esteemed Collection of the late Robin Jared Stanley Howard CBE.
William Lorimer is a Director of Valuations at Christie's, London and was a close friend of the late Robin Howard CBE.
Robin Jared Stanley Howard (1924-1989), was the eldest son of Sir Arthur Howard and the Lady Leonora Baldwin. His father was the grandson of Donald Alexander Smith, First Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, the financier, Railway Baron, trader and noted philanthropist. Lord Strathcona was the 26th Governor of Hudson Bay Company, for whom he had worked for a record 75 years, Chairman of Anglo-Persian Oil and High Commissioner of Canada. Robin's mother Lorna was the second daughter of Stanley Baldwin, Earl Baldwin of Bewdley and three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1920s and 30s.
As Prime Minister, Baldwin steered the country through the general strike of 1926 and more significantly he piloted the monarchy and country through the abdication crisis of 1936-1937. Less well known is the importance of Baldwin's moderate policy towards India that culminated, despite much vociferous opposition, in the passing of the government of India Act in 1935.
It was through Robin Howard's maternal MacDonald great-grandmother that Robin was connected to an extraordinary galaxy of talent. His great-great aunt Georgina married Sir Edward Coley-Burne Jones, the marvelous pre-Raphaelite artist. One of her sisters married Sir Edward Poynter, a contemporary of Lord Leighton and Alma-Tadema and President of the Royal Academy from 1896. The fourth, Alice was the mother of the poet and author Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The Jungle Book in 1894, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907.
A subject of both momentous torment and endless fascination for Francis Newton Souza was that of the female nude. Frequently revisiting this archetype in art historical subject matter, Souza's forays into the human are well documented and his works successfully explore a wide range of physiognomies from the most sublime of female nudes to the riotous and grotesque in human figuration. Like the Tahitian nudes of Paul Gauguin, Souza's nudes possess both a strong sexual aura and a sense of the primitive, the other and the unfamiliar. Mixing Georges Rouault's thick black lines with a cubistic structure, the artist gives the figures a sculptural quality that calls into mind the early 20th century work of Picasso, epitomized in his 1907 work, Demoiselles d'Avignon. In this magnificent example for 1959, Souza marvelously preserves a sense of elegance and grace in his contortions of the human body.