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The Scottish Nation

HOWE, JAMES, a most skilful animal painter, the son of the minister o the parish of Skirling, in Peebles-shire, was born there, August 30, 1780. He was educated at the parish school, and having early displayed a taste for drawing, he was, at the age of thirteen, sent to Edinburgh to learn the trade of a house-painter; and was employed in his spare hours to paint for Marshall’s panoramic exhibitions. On the expiry of his apprenticeship he commenced as a painter of animals at Edinburgh, and attracted the notice of various persons of distinction. By the advice of the earl of Buchan he was induced to visit London, where he painted the portraits of some of the horses in the royal stud; but owing to George III. Being at this time afflicted with blindness, he was disappointed in his hopes of securing the patronage of royalty, in consequence of which he returned to Scotland. Being considered the first animal painter in his native country, if not in Britain, his cattle portraits and pieces were purchased by many of the nobility and gentry. From Sir John Sinclair he received, some time subsequent to 1810, a commission to travel through various parts of Scotland for the purpose of painting the different breeds of cattle, his portraits of which were of much use to Sir John in the composition of his agricultural works. Various of Howe’s pieces were engraved, and among the most popular of these was his Hawking Party, by Turner.

      In 1815 Howe visited the field of Waterloo, and afterwards painted a large panoramic view of the battle, which was highly successful. During his representation at Glasgow, he resided there for about two years, but falling into irregular habits, he returned to Edinburgh in bad health and indigent circumstances. Being invited by the Hon. Mr. Maule, afterwards first Lord Panmure, to Brechin castle, to paint some cattle-pieces, he partially recovered his strength, and, after a stay of four months, returned to Edinburgh a richer man than when he left it. About the close of 1821, for the benefit of his health, he removed to Newhaven, a fishing village in the neighbourhood of that city, where, applying himself to his professional avocations, he produced a number of large compositions, many hundred sketches, and countless portraits of single animals. His wonderful skill in depicting animals remained unimpaired by time, but he every day became more negligent as to the proper finishing of his pieces. While he resided at Newhaven, he entered upon the illustration of a work on British Domestic Animals, of which Lizars was the engraver. Several numbers were published, containing pictures of cattle of various kinds and breeds, but the work not succeeding, was soon abandoned. The latter years of his life were spent at Edinburgh, where he died, July 11, 1836.

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