James “Jim” Howard, a fashion illustrator, dies in Lakewood at 92

James B. “Jim” Howard, a fashion illustrator for more than four decades whose work was showcased in a Denver Art Museum exhibit, died April 21 in Lakewood. He was 92.

“Drawn to Glamour: Fashion Illustrations by Jim Howard,” was displayed at the art museum’s Hamilton Building from March 25 through July 22, 2018.

“Jim was in the gallery (of his DAM show) regularly, always impeccably dressed in bow and bowler hat, engaging with visitors and enthusiastically sharing the stories behind his masterful illustrations, which were iconic to the fashion world and department store industry throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s,” said Christoph Heinrich, director DAM, in a written statement. “His show was a fresh and innovative approach to a genre that disappeared when photography was taking over in the magazines and newspapers. Jim’s skill for observation and attention to details and aesthetics was amazing; his show was a delightful walk down memory lane, which chronicled more than four decades of his artistic legacy.”

More than 100 of Howard’s illustrations — along with newspaper clippings, portraits he created and a dozen garments from the museum’s archives — were included in the show, which documented not only his work, but also the evolution of drawing as a medium and the importance of it to American retailing in the second half of the 20th century.

“I suddenly saw this as an opportunity to show how from the 1950s through the 1980s illustration was the way fashion trends were communicated,” Florence Müller told The Denver Post in 2018 just before the start of the exhibit. “Jim was in the Golden Age and had an artistic and elegant style.”

At the time of the exhibit, Müller was the museum’s fashion and textile curator.

“He didn’t just focus on the garment,” Müller told the Post. “He used the landscape of his drawings to create stories.”

Born June 7, 1930, in Sterley, Texas, Howard, as a teenager, received a scholarship to study art at the Houston Museum of Fine Art. In 1950, Jim graduated from Arlington State College, Arlington, Texas. A year later he was awarded a scholarship for Art Studies at the College of Fine Arts, University of Texas.

To help cover expenses while in college, Howard worked part time at a fashion store in Austin named Goodfriends, doing layouts, window displays and illustrations for advertising. After military service, he served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955, Howard worked for Neiman Marcus as an illustrator and assistant art director. Howard soon became an award-winning, internationally published fashion illustrator, working for major department stores, cosmetic firms and advertising agencies.

Early in his career, Howard lived and worked in New York City, maintaining a downtown studio. He later lived in upstate New York in three different homes, all with studios.

“I visited him several times when he was at the height of his career,” recalled Paula Louise Blincoe, Howard’s niece, of Kansas. “I always lived far away, he would always have me come visit with him in New York. He was just so astounding to watch, sketching and drawing.”

Blincoe described Howard as a “Renaissance man,” a chef who enjoyed cooking Asian dishes and a longtime theater lover who also took to the stage.

In the early 1980s, Howard moved to New Mexico where his work transitioned from fashion illustration to fine art and he had several art shows in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. An actor, Howard has several roles with Albuquerque Civic Light Opera, including playing Colonel Pickering in “My Fair Lady” and Judge in “Little Mary Sunshine.”

“He was a great entertainer,” she said.

Howard moved to Denver, first living in a LoDo loft in the early 2000s where he authored and created several paper doll books.

Howard’s DAM exhibit in Denver was among the highlights of his storied career, Blincoe said.

He is survived by his niece, Blincoe; a nephew, George W. Blincoe; and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews.

“Jim was an absolute prince of a man who gave the best of his best to his life, his work, his
family and friends,” Blincoe said. “Never was there a more impeccably dressed man. Though his work appeared effortless he confessed it took, ‘practice, practice, practice.’ ”

A celebration of his life will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the Village at Belmar, 7825 W. Alameda Ave., Lakewood.

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