Tributes paid to painter and musician Ian Houston

The painter and musician Ian Houston who has aged 86

The painter and musician Ian Houston who has aged 86 - Credit: Matthew Houston /Provided by Ian Houston's family

Tributes have been paid to a celebrated impressionist painter whose career was "formed under East Anglian skies."

Not only was Ian Houston a talented painter whose work has been exhibited and collected around the world but he was also a classically trained pianist who taught music at North Walsham High School for Girls.

Born in Gravesend, Kent in 1934. At school, Mr Houston showed a keen interest in the natural world and would often go to the coast to watch and sketch wildlife.

As a teenager, he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, while studying music he continued to draw and also studied part-time at St Martins College of Art.

After a Shower, Norfolk, oil on board, 9 x 11 ins (23 x 28 cm) by Ian Houston

After a Shower, Norfolk, oil on board, 9 x 11 ins (23 x 28 cm) by Ian Houston - Credit: Panter & Hall, London / Ian Houston estate

In the 1950s he began exhibiting his work in London. During this period his style of painting began to move towards impressionism and while exhibiting at the Tryon Gallery he met the celebrated artist Edward Seago who recognised Mr Houston's talent and encouraged him to concentrate on landscape painting.


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The two became close friends and Seago helped nurture Mr Houston's talent, even giving him boxes of paintings to copy. Mr Houston himself likened the guidance he received from 'Ted' as akin to an apprenticeship and the two would often go paint alongside one another in north Norfolk. 

In 1958, Mr Houston married Angela Wentworth Adams, who worked at SOAS University, together the couple had two children, Sarah born in 1959 and Matthew born in 1961.

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In 1964, the family relocated to North Norfolk so Mr Houston could take up a position teaching music at North Walsham High School for Girls.

Ian Houston at his easel in 1964

Ian Houston at his easel in 1964 - Credit: Provided by Ian Houston's family

Looking back on his childhood in Norfolk, Matthew Houston said the period was full of adventures.

He said: "As a father, he was just such great fun, we just had such a great time.

"We never had a TV growing up which even then in the 1960s and 70s was quite unusual and I think [my parents] had a very clear idea about bringing up children, they believed in getting kids out into the world and experiencing it. So our memories of that life were just great fun.

"It was full of adventures which seemed to happen effortlessly."

While in Norfolk Mr Houston continued to paint and exhibit his work, developing an affinity with Norfolk's landscapes and capturing them in various states.

Mill and Stormy Sky, Mixed media on board, 10 x 14 ins (25 x 36 cm) by Ian Houston

Mill and Stormy Sky, Mixed media on board, 10 x 14 ins (25 x 36 cm) by Ian Houston - Credit: Panter & Hall, London / Ian Houston estate

Speaking about his connection with the county, he said: "My career as a painter was formed under East Anglian skies. The special quality of the light and the wonderful forms of the clouds created an awareness of the sky which has never left me, no matter where I am in the world.”

His son Matthew confirmed his father's relationship with Norfolk's landscapes.

"North Norfolk especially was where he felt very at home," he said.

"He would always work all day but within that somehow he managed to always be around all of the time. He had quite a strong work ethic. 

"I think he felt a real responsibility to put his talent out into the world as well as he could in the time he had."

The Thames sailing barge Raybel which Ian Houston purchased in 1973.

The Thames sailing barge Raybel which Ian Houston purchased in 1973. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press

In the late 1960s, Mr Houston held his first solo exhibition at Mandell's Gallery in Norwich the success of which enabled him to purchase the Thames Sailing Barge Raybel.

He continued to paint, with his work being exhibited and collected around the world.

In 2005, Mr Houston's wife Angela died aged 70. Three years later he married Ingrid and relocated to London.

Barns in the Snow at Ludham, Norfolk, Mixed media on canvas, 11 x 14 ins (28 x 36 cm) - 2020 by Ian Houston

Barns in the Snow at Ludham, Norfolk, Mixed media on canvas, 11 x 14 ins (28 x 36 cm) - 2020 by Ian Houston - Credit: Panter & Hall, London/ Ian Houston estate

In October, Panter & Hall Gallery in London will host a retrospective of Mr Houston's work. The exhibition will run from October 20 - November 5.

Matthew Hall, of Panter & Hall Gallery in London, said: "[Ian Houston] was a man of many talents, a professional concert pianist as well as an acclaimed landscape painter and master of his own Thames sailing barge.

"Most of all he was a gentleman, not in a superficial mannered way but a truly sensitive soul who took an interest in art, music and his fellow man with no side or agenda.”

Tree in a Field 1, Mixed media on board, 14 x 20 ins (36 x 51 cm) by Ian Houston

Tree in a Field 1, Mixed media on board, 14 x 20 ins (36 x 51 cm) by Ian Houston - Credit: Panter & Hall, London/ Ian Houston estate

Ian Houston died in London on January 19 2021, aged 86. He is survived by his second wife Ingrid, children Sarah and Matthew, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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