Samuel Howitt (1756/57-1822) Samuel Howitt was self-taught as an artist. However, his enthusiastic approach to his interests in natural history and field sports translated itself into drawings that were at once vigorous and accurate. Samuel Howitt was born into a wealthy Quaker family of Nottinghamshire origin, who were squires at Chigwell, Essex. He spent his youth enjoying sporting activities, and turned to art professionally only when he experienced financial difficulties. Moving closer to London, he took a job as a drawing master at the Rev Samuel Goodenough’s Private Academy in Ealing.
Becoming a member of the artistic circle that included George Morland, John Raphael Smith, Henry Wigstead and Thomas Rowlandson, Howitt married Rowlandson’s sister, Elizabeth, in 1779. Together they had at least one child to survive into adulthood, though they separated long before Samuel died.
By 1783, Howitt had moved into London’s West End, and was establishing himself as a painter and engraver.
He began to exhibit at the Incorporated Society of Artists (in 1783) and the Royal Academy of Arts (from 1784).
Howitt accompanied Rowlandson and Wigstead on a trip to the Isle of Wight in 1791, and may have spent some time in Richmond, Yorkshire. However, he was certainly in London by 1793, building a reputation for animal and sporting subjects, and beginning to work as an illustrator. He made many studies from life, at the menagerie of the Tower of London and elsewhere, and also worked up sketches that amateur artists had made abroad.
His illustrative work first came to the public’s notice through the pages of The Sporting Magazine (founded in 1792). Then, through the following two decades, it featured in a number of books; these included Peter Beckford’s Thoughts on Hunting (1798) and Thomas Williamson’s Oriental Field Sports (1807), and several issued by Edward Orme, notably Orme’s Collection of British Field Sports (1807), The British Sportsman (1812) and Fables of Aesop, Gay and Phaedras (1811). His achievement has been compared to that of George Stubbs, and he has been considered a precursor to Henry Alken.
Howitt died at home, at 103 Chalton Street, Somers Town, London in February 1823.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the British Museum and the V&A; and The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge), the Natural History Museum (Tring) and the Museum of Island History (Newport, Isle of Wight).