Ian Houston produces distinctive landscape and marine paintings – in oil, watercolour and acrylic – that capture the atmosphere of East Anglia and beyond in a brilliantly impressionistic style. He is the latest in a long tradition of landscape painting that leads through his mentor, Edward Seago, to Alfred Munnings and Bertram Priestman, and back to John Constable and the Norwich School. Ian Houston was born in Gravesend, Kent, on 24 September 1934, the son of Angus Houston and his wife, Florence (née Reddish). Showing a great talent for music while studying at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, he went on, in 1950, to train at the Royal College of Music, London. Soon after, he began a part-time course in painting at St Martin’s School of Art, and eventually decided to relinquish a promising career as a concert pianist in favour of painting. He began exhibiting in London in 1956, and a year later met the artist, Edward Seago, while showing at the wildlife specialists, Tryon Gallery.
Seago saw great potential in Houston, and offered him encouragement, persuading him to turn to painting landscapes rather than birds.
In 1964, Houston moved to North Walsham, Norfolk, with his wife, Angela, and two children. While teaching art at the North Walsham High School for Girls, he began to gain an intimate knowledge of the Norfolk landscape, by painting its flat terrain, peaceful waterways and big skies. In the same year, he held his first solo show, at the Usher Gallery, Lincoln. From 1970, he held regular exhibitions at Mandell’s Gallery, Norwich. Following a successful show in 1974, he bought the sea-going Thames Spritsail Barge, ‘Raybell’, in which he subsequently gained his Master’s Certificate. The Raybell allowed him to experience traditional sail in action and study the weather off the shores around East Anglia. He became a member of the East Anglian Group of Marine Artists (and later its president).
Since at least as early as 1981, Houston has held many international solo shows. These include those held at Monazo Fine Arts, Monte Carlo (1981); Beehive Corner Art Gallery, Adelaide (1986); and Mongerson Wunderlich Galleries, Chicago (1990).
He has also won both a silver medal for watercolour from the Paris Salon and a gold medal with rosette from the Fédération National de la Culture Française (1984), and became an associate of the Société des Artistes Français. In 1988, he was official artist to the sail training ship, ‘Young Endeavour’, Britain’s bicentennial gift to Australia.
Represented by the Polak Gallery, from the late 1980s, Houston moved to the Portland Gallery a decade later, and continues to exhibit regularly. He became a member of the Guild of Norwich Painters in 1994, and later its president. In 2001 and 2006, he published articles on painting technique in the magazine, The Artist.
His paintings have been collected across the world for many decades. His private collectors include the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and his work is held in the collections of Barclays Bank plc, Mercury Asset Management, Norwich Union, Robert Fleming Holdings Ltd, Windsor and Newton, The Usher Gallery, Lincoln, The Australian Government and The State Bank of South Australia, among many others.