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Ferdinand Howald


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Collector. Also a businessman. An early and discriminating buyer of progressive and modern American work, he bequeathed the cream of his collection to the Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art. When he was an infant, Howald's parents left his birthplace, Wangen-am-Aar, Switzerland, to settle on a farm near Columbus. Later, they moved into Columbus, where Howald graduated with Ohio State University's first class. In 1881 he earned a second degree in mining engineering and went to work in the West Virginia coal industry, where he made a fortune sufficient to retire in 1906 and move to New York. Excepting a few etchings, Howald apparently did not buy art before 1913. The few pieces he acquired that year included commissioned family portraits by Leon Kroll and Eugene Speicher. He also purchased examples of European art, as he continued to do on an occasional basis. During the following year, he purchased his first modernist American work, a painting by the decorative symbolist Edward Middleton Manigault (1887–1922). In 1915 he bought paintings by Ernest Lawson and Maurice Prendergast, who subsequently became favorites well represented in the collection. He began to collect in earnest in 1916. Eventually his unprecedented collection included important groups by Charles Demuth, Preston Dickinson, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Man Ray, and Charles Sheeler. It also represented the work of Arthur Dove and other artists from the Alfred Stieglitz circle, William Glackens and George Luks of The Eight, independent modernists such as Samuel Halpert and William Zorach, and progressive realists, including Charles Burchfield, Rockwell Kent, and Raphael Soyer. Howald contributed substantially to the costs of building the Columbus Museum of Art, which opened as the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts in 1931 with a show of his collection. He died in Columbus, once again his home in later years.

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