Peter Howson OBE was born in London in 1958, but moved to Glasgow at the age of 4. He attended Glasgow School of Art from 1975, alongside contemporaries such as Adrian Wiszniewski, Steven Campbell and Ken Currie, but tutors did not appreciate his strong figurative style. Having failed his first end of year exams, he impulsively signed up for the British Army. However, after nin...e month tenure, he swore never to fire another gun for as long as he lived.
Then followed a number of relatively menial jobs as he was desperately in need of an income. He started working as a nightclub bouncer and simultaneously became embroiled in the pastime of bodybuilding. The almost grotesque form of overly-developed bodies was to become the focus of much of Howson’s most lauded work. Howson’s stated abhorrence of violent culture is reflected in his later pieces.
Howson was a central figure in what was now becoming known as the “Glasgow Boys” movement. The so-called Glasgow Boys did much to reinstate the importance of figurative painting in an art world obsessed by the abstract and the conceptual. 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 the official war artist for the Bosnian civil war in 1993. Here he produced some of his most shocking and controversial work detailing the atrocities which were taking place at the time. 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 rather than witnessing it firsthand. The painting was later purchased by David Bowie. 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, which allegedly infuriated The Queen as her head seemed to be appearing out of a chimney. In addition his work has been used on album covers by Live (Throwing Copper), The Beautiful South (Quench) and Jackie Leven (Fairytales for Hardmen). Now a household name, his work is exhibited in many major public collections in the UK, Europe and the USA and is in the private collection of celebrities such as Bowie, Mick Jagger and Madonna who inspired a number of paintings in 2002. His work is undoubtedly now a collector’s item, with the most expensive piece selling for £305,000. He recently undertook a large commission in Glasgow Cathedral. Howson was appointed OBE in the 2009 Birthday Honours.