Peter Howson

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For the politician, see Peter Howson (Australian politician).
Peter Howson
Born (1958-03-27) 27 March 1958 (age 57)
London, England
Nationality Scottish, British
Education Glasgow School of Art
Known for Painting
Blind Leading the Blind III (Orange Parade), 1991.
Judas, 2002.

Peter Howson OBE (born London, England,[1] 27 March 1958) is a Scottish painter. He was the British official war artist in the 1993 Bosnian Civil War.

Early life[edit]

Peter Howson was born in London of Scottish parents and moved with his family to Prestwick, Ayrshire, when was aged four. He was raised in a religious family and the first ever painting he did was a Crucifixion, when he was 6 years old.[2] He spent a short time as an infantry soldier in the Royal Highland Fusiliers but left to study at the Glasgow School of Art, from 1975 to 1977, and from 1979 to 1981. Here he worked alongside contemporaries such as Adrian Wiszniewski, Steven Campbell and Ken Currie, who also worked in figurative art.


His work has encompassed a number of themes. His early works are typified by very masculine working class men, most famously in The Heroic Dosser (1987). Later he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum of London, to be the official war artist for the Bosnian/Hercegovina under Serbian and Croatian aggression in 1993. Here he produced some of his most shocking and controversial work detailing the atrocities which were taking place at the time, like Plum Grove (1994). One painting in particular Croatian and Muslim, detailing a rape created controversy partly because of its explicit subject matter but also because Howson had painted it from the accounts of its victims. He was also the official war painter at the Kosovo War for the London Times.[3]

Much of his work cast stereotypes on the lower social groups; he portrayed brawls including drunken, even physically deformed men and women.

In more recent years his work has exhibited strong religious themes which some say is linked to the treatment of his alcoholism and drug addiction at the Castle Craig Hospital in Peebles in 2000, after which he converted to Christianity.[4] Howson also has Asperger syndrome.[4]

His work has appeared in other media, with his widest exposure arguably for a British postage stamp he did in 1998 to celebrate engineering achievements for the millennium. In addition his work has been used on album covers by Live (Throwing Copper), The Beautiful South (Quench) and Jackie Leven (Fairytales for Hardmen).

His work is exhibited in many major collections and is in the private collection of celebrities such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Madonna.

Howson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.[5] In November 2010, BBC Scotland aired a documentary named "The Madness of Peter Howson" which followed the final stages of the completion of a grand commission for show in the renovated St Andrew's Cathedral and also dealt with Howson's struggle against bouts of insanity.[6] In September 2014, Howson suggested that he would hand back his OBE, predominantly due to his dislike of British foreign policy.[7]




  • Berkoff, Stephen, Peter Howson, Flowers (2005)
  • Heller, Robert, Peter Howson, Momentum (2003)
  • Jackson, Allan, A Different Man, Mainstream Publishing (1997)
  • Heller, Robert, Peter Howson, Mainstream Publishing (1993)

Exhibition Catalogues

  • Harrowing of Hell, 24 October - 22 November 2008, Flowers East
  • Christos Aneste, 18 March - 7 May 2005, Flowers East
  • Inspired by the Bible, 6–20 August 2004, New College, Edinburgh
  • The Stations of the Cross, 11 April - 18 May 2003, Flowers East
  • The Third Step, 13 April - 4 June 2002, Flowers East
  • The Rake’s Progress, 12 January - 11 February 1996, Flowers East
  • Blind Leading the Blind, 9 November- 8 December 1991, Flowers East

External links[edit]