Thomas Howarth

Thomas Howarth, professor, architectural historian, collector (b in England 1914, d at Toronto 21 July 2000).

Howarth, Thomas

Thomas Howarth, professor, architectural historian, collector (b in England 1914, d at Toronto 21 July 2000). Howarth reawakened interest in the great Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), through articles, a comprehensive monograph, exhibitions, and lifelong advocacy and collecting. A prescient collector of Mackintosh's work, Howarth amassed a huge and varied collection.

Howarth studied ARCHITECTURE at the University of Manchester in the UK and earned a doctorate from Scotland1s University of Glasgow. Mackintosh was the subject of his PhD work. Although Mackintosh's premier work, the still-extant Glasgow School of Art (1896-1909), has been described as "the only art school in the world where the building is worthy of the subject," Mackintosh's best works were completed before 1910 and by his death in 1928 his reputation had markedly declined. Howarth, a born collector, began to amass what would eventually become the world's largest private collection of the architect's work. He published articles on Mackintosh during the 1940s and in 1952 a monograph on the architect:Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, with a second edition in 1977.

In 1958 Howarth immigrated to Canada and taught at the University of Toronto's school of architecture until 1974, when he retired as dean of the faculty of architecture. As well as continuing to pursue his lifelong interest in Mackintosh, Howarth published articles and gave lectures on URBAN DESIGN, ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION, and Renaissance, Modern, and Canadian architecture. He served as a campus planner for LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY and Glendon College, both in Ontario. Howarth also collected the work of other modern architects and designers, notably Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Eames.

In February 1994, after a suitable Canadian buyer could not be found, 144 objects from Howarth's collection were sold at Christie's London office, garnering Howarth £2 270 000. An ebonized 1904 writing cabinet inlaid with mother-of-pearl brought £793 500, then the highest auction price ever recorded for 20th-century furniture.

In honour of Mackintosh, Howarth subsequently made generous philanthropic gifts in Canada and the United Kingdom. In 1998 an £80 000 endowment enabled the Mackintosh Society in Glasgow, Scotland, to purchase as its headquarters Queen's Cross Church (1896-99), one of Mackintosh's designs.

In his latter years, Howarth donated some of his collection as well as money to public collections in Canada and Scotland, notably the ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM, Glasgow University, and the Mackintosh Society. Such generosity was rewarded by honours such as the City of Glasgow's prestigious Lord Provost Award, in recognition of his studies on Mackintosh.

A posthumous donation endowed the Howarth-Wright Scholarship at the University of Toronto, which enables students to study at Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright's western studio.

In 2001 an exhibition was held at the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow, commemorating Howarth's gifts to Glasgow University of watercolours, designs, decorative art and archival material related to Mackintosh.


Further Reading

  • Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, 1977; Thomas Howarth, "Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928): Architect and Designer," Royal Institute of British Architects Journal, November 1950, pp. 15-19