John Howard Little was an early California realist landscape painter who captured the essence of the new American frontier. He was a member of what could be considered the second generation of San Diego painters, following in the footsteps of Maurice Braun, Charles Fries and Charles Reiffel.
Howard Little was born in 1883 to Charles Otis Little and Julia Griswold Little, a prominent Delaware Ohio family. As a young man he became an accomplished photographer and taxidermist, skills that would later benefit his work as a muralist for nature exhibits. Little was also fascinated with hydroplanes and aeronautics, and in 1902 he enrolled at Ohio State University where he studied engineering and art. One of his fellow students was the well-known painter George Bellows.
After leaving Ohio State in 1906 he traveled to California, where he studied with the well-known stunt flier Lincoln Beachey. He returned to Delaware and in 1909 set out a large fruit orchard on a farm his family had recently purchased. Four years later, at the age of twenty, he again travelled west, this time to Colorado, where he worked as an assistant exhibit preparer for the Denver Museum of Natural History, painting the backgrounds for wildlife exhibits. He also began landscape painting under the guidance of the painter Henry Read.
While in Denver, Howard met Mildred Rinker, a recent graduate of Colorado Women’s College. They married in 1914. Two years later they moved to the East Coast where he worked as a draftsman for Martin Aircraft and also the newly created Curtiss Aircraft Company. In 1918 he was employed by Army Signal Corps as an inspector of military aircraft made possible by the personal recommendation of then Senator, Warren G. Harding.
In 1921 Howard and Mildred moved to Chula Vista, California and where he began a small poultry ranch and did commercial illustration in addition to his painting. He studied with the well-known painters Alfred Mitchell and Maurice Braun, and in the mid-1930’s began painting professionally. During the late 1930’s he taught art in the San Diego County schools as part of the WPA Visual Curriculum Program. In 1940 he was hired to create a series of exhibits for the San Diego Museum of Natural History, the largest of which was the celebrated Migratory Birds of the Salton Sea that opened to the public in September of the following year.
Howard Little often travelled the West Coast to paint, accompanied by his wife and young daughter. While the California landscape was the major focus of his paintings, his subjects also included scenes in Vermont, Washington, Arizona, Canada and Mexico. Little was a charter member of many San Diego Art institutions, and regularly exhibited his paintings in a number of local galleries. He was a founding member of the Southwest Artists Association in 1949. Howard Little was a highly regarded painter in the San Diego Art scene, showing side by side with artists Alfred Mitchell and Elliot Torrey, and became well known for his realistic painting style. His work can be found in collections throughout the United States as well as England. He continued to paint until his death in 1965.
San Diego Art Guild
Southwestern Art Association
Chula Vista Art Guild
La Mesa Foothills Art Association
La Jolla Art Association
San Diego Art Institute
The Twenty Artists Group
General Federation of Women’s Clubs, Washington DC
Richard Kidston Law, 1st Baron Coleraine, England
McKee Foundation, Fort Worth Texas
Denver Museum of Natural History
San Diego Natural History Museum
San Diego Art Institute
California Senator Bob Wilson