Howard Ashton was born in London, 9/8/1877, and arrived in Melbourne the following year with his parents. His father, Julian Rossi Ashton (1851-1942), had been offered a position as illustrator with The Illustrated Australian News. In 1883 Julian Rossi moved to Sydney, where, over the next two decades, he became perhaps the most influential art teacher working in the country. After teaching at the Art Society of New South Wales School, he established his own art school, which still survives today.
Howard Ashton trained in his father’s art school from 1896-1903, where he met Mary Ethel Roberts, whom he married in 1908. Ashton had some success as a landscape and seascape painter, but family commitments obliged him to pursue a career as a journalist. It was not until 1946, a year after his wife’s death, that Ashton retired from journalism to return to painting. He died on 30 April 1964.
Ashton worked along the traditional lines he had learnt as a young man in his father’s art school. As this fine pastel shows, Ashton was a natural landscape artist, skillfully capturing the sense of temporary calm before a storm breaks. A rough dirt track directs the viewer’s gaze to the threatening sky. The foreground palette is darkened as the muted browns and greens absorb, in advance, the lowered tones of the imminent tempest. In a landscape of this emotional resonance one would expect some mark of human life, but not even a solitary traveller lingers in this powerful nature piece.
Howard Ashton (1877-1964)
Pastel on paper signed and dated lower left: Howard Ashton 1917
46.5 x 74.1 cm M84