George James Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, HRWS (1843-1911) Despite a busy public life as a politician and peer, George Howard devoted as much time as possible to his artistic interests. As a patron and administrator, he had a highly beneficial effect on the direction and development of the Victorian art world. As a practising painter and draughtsman, he produced vividly detailed landscapes and figure subjects in a manner that aligned him first with the Pre-Raphaelites and then increasingly with the circle that surrounded his chief influence, the Italian artist, Giovanni Costa.
George Howard was born at 56 Park Street, Grosvenor Square, London, on 12 August 1843, the son of the Hon Charles Howard, the fifth son of George Howard, the 6th Earl of Carlisle, and Mary Priscilla Harriett Parke. His mother had studied under the painter, Peter De Wint, and, though she died soon after he was born, he grew up surrounded by examples of her paintings. This experience may have encouraged his own artistic development.
Certainly, he became one of the best pupils of S T G Evans while at Eton, and was presented with Volume 5 of John Ruskin’s Modern Painters as a ‘prize for the best sketch made by him during the summer of 1860’ (Castle Howard Archive Ref: J20/25 Dec 3 1857). He was also involved in artistic projects while a student at Trinity College, Cambridge.
A year before he graduated in 1865, Howard married Rosalind Stanley, the youngest child of the 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley and the women’s education campaigner, Henrietta Stanley. She herself became a promoter of women’s political rights, a temperance movement activist – and mother to eleven children.
During the winter of 1865-66, the Howards travelled in Italy, on the first of many visits to the country. In Rome, they made friends with the artist, Giovanni Costa, who, in time, would give Howard lessons in painting and become the principal influence on his art. In turn, Howard would give Costa professional support.
On his return from Italy, Howard studied at Heatherley’s School of Art; at the National Art Training School, South Kensington, under Alphonse Legros; and independently with other artists, including Edward Burne-Jones, George Frederick Watts and Hamilton Gibbs Wilde. Beginning his career as an exhibiting artist in 1867, with watercolours at the Dudley Gallery, he would become a mainstay of the Grosvenor Gallery (during the decade 1877-87) and then the New Gallery (from 1888). He would also be made an honorary member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1890. In both his work and his patronage, he aligned himself particularly with the Pre-Raphaelites.
In 1870, the Howards moved into 1 Palace Green, the house that they had commissioned from Philip Webb, and which was decorated by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, the Pre-Raphaelite decoration company of which Webb was a member. Central to the decorative scheme was the frieze, Cupid and Psyche (now in Birmingham M & AG), designed by Burne-Jones in 1871 and painted mainly by Walter Crane. Developing a wide circle of friends, including many artists and writers, they became particularly close to William Morris and Burne-Jones, who would also provide paintings and decorations for their other homes, at Castle Howard, North Yorkshire, and Naworth Castle, Cumberland.
Howard also took on administrative roles in the art world: becoming an early member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (founded in 1877 by Morris and Webb); sitting on the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery from 1881 until his death, and becoming Chairman of the Trustees and acting Director in the years 1904-6; and involving himself in the foundation of the Tate Gallery, which opened in 1897.
On the death of his father in 1879, Howard was elected Liberal MP for Cumberland and, though he lost his seat in 1880, regained it a year later and until his resignation in 1886. Then on the death of his uncle, William Howard, the 8th Earl of Carlisle, in 1889, he inherited the title. Nevertheless, Howard’s main interest remained the visual arts, and the opportunities that that interest gave him.
From the 1880s, Howard made frequent visits to Italy – inspiring many landscape paintings – and travelled much further afield, to various parts of Africa (including Algiers in 1893), and to India (1891-92) and the United States of America (1906).
In 1882, Howard and the Rev Stopford Brooke joined together to organise an ambitious exhibition of Costa’s paintings at the Fine Art Society. Around the same time, he helped found the Etruscan School of Painting, a loose association of Costa’s acolytes that included Matthew Ridley Corbet and William Blake Richmond. Two decades later, in 1904, he would help to organise a memorial exhibition of the work of Giovanni Costa at the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours.
Howard died from heart failure at Bracklands, Hindhead, Surrey – the home of his daughter, Cecilia – on 16 April 1911. He was buried at Lanercost Priory, near Naworth Castle, four days later. His eldest son, Charles, succeeded him, while Rosalind survived him and lived until 1921.
His work is represented at Castle Howard (Yorkshire) and in numerous public collections, including the National Portrait Gallery; and Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust (Carlisle).
Further reading: Alison Brisby, George Howard. 9th Earl of Carlisle (1843-1911), Carlisle: Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, 1913; Christopher Ridgway, ‘Howard (ii): (4) George James Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle’, Jane Turner (ed), The Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan, 1996, vol 14, pages 808-809; Christopher Ridgway, ‘Howard, George James, ninth earl of Carlisle (1843-1911)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 28, pages 354-355; Virginia Surtees, The Artist and the Autocrat: George & Rosalind Howard, Earl and Countess of Carlisle, Salisbury: Michael Russell, 1988
Many thanks to Alison Brisby for help in compiling this entry.