Painter. In characteristic compositions, geometric and biomorphic, often vibrantly colored, hard-edged, and predominately planar forms appear within luminous spaces. In their precision and delicacy, Howard's works reiterate the spirit of Alexander Calder's contemporary mobiles and recall aspects of work by Kandinsky, Ilya Bolotowsky, and early Ad Reinhardt. Within an unusually subdued scheme of desertlike colors, Hare Corner (Whitney Museum, 1939), a bipartite image of shapes floating across an indeterminate space, anticipates Howard's drift in the 1940s toward a less rigid, more intuitive approach. Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Charles Houghton Howard moved with his family to the San Francisco Bay Area. After graduating from the University of California in Berkeley, he pursued additional study at Harvard and Columbia. As an artist, he remained mainly self-taught. Before World War II and again for some years afterward, he lived in London, where he associated with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, and others of the Unit One group. Later he lived in San Francisco. In 1970 he moved permanently to Italy, where he died at Bagni di Lucca.
A brother, sculptor and painter Robert Boardman Howard (1896–1983), born in New York, studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in Oakland and at the Art Students League. His sculptural work embellished a number of architectural venues and outdoor locations, mainly in San Francisco. A third brother, painter John Langley Howard (1902–99), born in Montclair, graduated from the University of California in Berkeley before following Robert to the same art schools. Both participated in the decoration of San Francisco's Coit Tower. In Depression-era paintings detailing the plight of economically disadvantaged citizens, John contributed to the social realist strain of the American Scene movement. He also painted many scenes of the area around Monterey, California, while residing there for some years before returning to San Francisco.