Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Howald, Ferdinand
Wangen-am-Aar, Switzerland, 1856–Columbus, Ohio,1934

Ferdinand Howald was an American businessman and art collector. He began collecting in 1913, and within a decade was known as a major collector of American modern art. Working primarily with the New York art dealer George Daniel, Howald assembled a collection that included three hundred paintings and works on paper by such artists as Charles Demuth, Preston Dickinson, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Maurice Pendergrast, Man Ray, and Charles Sheeler. In addition to his dedicated support of American art, the collector also acquired noteworthy examples of European modern art, including works by Georges Braque, Albert Gleizes, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Jean Metzinger, Picasso, and Georges Valmier. An enthusiastic benefactor to the Columbus Museum of Art, Howald donated most of his collection to that institution near the end of his life; it is still housed there today.

Born in Switzerland, Howald’s family immigrated to the United States while he was still an infant, settling in Columbus, Ohio. In 1881, he earned a degree in mining engineering at Ohio State University. During the next decades, he amassed a substantial fortune operating a coal mine in West Virginia. After retiring in 1906, Howald moved to New York. In 1914 he made his first visit to George Daniel’s gallery on West 55th Street and made his first purchase, an oil painting by Edward Middleton Manigault. The Daniel Gallery had opened after the Armory Show and specialized in selling works by then relatively unknown American artists. Howald bought almost exclusively from the gallery between 1915 and 1929, becoming Daniel’s steadiest client. A zealous collector, Howald developed close relationships with the artists he patronized throughout the 1920s, particularly Demuth, Hartley, Marin, Pendergrast, and Man Ray. Howald often bought multiple works at a time from each of these artists and offered them crucial financial support. In 1921, he financed Man Ray’s trip to Paris, where the artist remained until 1939. Howald continued to patronize Daniel’s gallery until 1929, when his health began to decline and he returned to his family home in Columbus. Due to the loss of Howald’s support and the financial strain of the Great Depression, Daniel’s gallery closed in 1932.

Toward the end of his relationship with George Daniel, Howald began purchasing works of modern European art through auctions and other dealers. In contrast to the American artists he collected, Howald never met the Europeans represented in his collection and did not develop direct relationships with them. Howland acquired a number of European modern works from the 1926–27 auctions of the John Quinn collection and around the same time, purchased a number of works formerly in the collection of Achillito Chiesta.

In 1934 Ferdinand Howald died and left 185 objects from his collection to the Columbus Art Museum; among his gifts are a significant group of Cubist paintings, including Braque’s The Guitar (1917–18); Gleizes’s Landscape (1913); two canvases by Gris, Playing Cards and Glass of Beer (1913) and The Compote (1920); Léger’s The Punching Machine (1918), Metzinger’s Still Life with Mushrooms (n.d.); five compositions by Picasso, including Female Nude (1912); and two collages by Valmier. Howald also made gifts of two remarkable 1915 Cubist paintings by Diego Rivera (Still Life (Mallorca) and Still Life with Bread Knife), produced while the Mexican artist was living in Paris.

Contributed by Maria Castro, July 2017
For more information, see:
From the Collection of Ferdinand Howald: 19th and 20th Century Paintings—School of Paris, Renaissance Paintings, Italian and Middle Eastern Ceramics; Given to the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, 1931. Exh. Cat. Columbus: Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, 1969.

Goldstein, Malcolm. Landscape with Figures: A History of Art Dealing in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Young, Mahonri Sharp. “Ferdinand Howald and His Artists.” American Art Journal 1, no. 2 (1969): 119–28. doi:10.2307/1593880.

The Ferdinand Howald papers, 1918–73 are held in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.