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John Newton Howitt

John Newton Howitt: John Newton Howitt self-portrait

John Newton Howitt self-portrait

American

1885 - 1958

John Newton Howitt began drawing and painting at age four, while he was recovering from a bout with polio. (His right leg would remain crippled the rest of his life.) After graduating high school, he studied at the Arts Students League in New York City.

In about 1905, Howitt began painting illustrations for magazine and newspapers like The Saturday Evening Post, Woman’s Home Companion, Collier’s and the New York Herald Tribune, and advertisements for Crisco, Jello and other national brands. He was also a talented landscape artist, traveling throughout the United States and exhibiting with the Hudson Valley Art Association, the Salmagundi Club, and other art guilds. He sold these paintings through prestigious New York City are galleries.

Once the Depression hit, Howitt was able to find only occasional work with major publications, forcing him instead to earn a living illustrating pulp adventure and crime magazines, which were rapidly gaining popularity during this time period. He is said to have “deplored” creating these often scandalous, grisly and garish pieces; many were signed only “H” instead of the full signature he used on his more prestigious paintings, and it appears he destroyed many of the original canvases. Regardless, his work was meticulously done and many of his pulp covers are considered some of the best examples of the genre.

As the economy improved in the late 1930s and the U.S. entered World War II, Howitt started receiving enough legitimate assignments for magazine illustrations and American propaganda posters he was able to give up the pulps for the remainder of his career. His last known pulp cover was in 1940.

Last updated: March 27, 2014

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