Howard met Giovanni Costa in January 1866 during his initial trip to Italy and had likely gained the introduction through Frederic Leighton. It proved to be a turning point in Howard’s life and Costa’s influence on his work was profound and long lasting. Howard first visited Costa’s studio in February of that same year and subsequently spent time sketching with him in the Campagna. Costa taught him to work in oils as prior to this time he had only used watercolour. Their association was mutually beneficial. Howard became Costa’s most faithful benefactor and Howard’s wealthy and influential English friends and fellow aristocrats also patronized him. In fact Costa depended almost entirely upon English support for his livelihood. In turn Costa genuinely admired Howard’s work. He stayed with the Howards on some of his visits to England, normally at Naworth their castle in Cumbria, but also at Castle Howard and at 1 Palace Green, Kensington, in London.

From the first year of their marriage George and Rosalind Howard spent a great deal of time living in Italy, normally spending between three and seven months each year. George grew to love the country and and its people and was at his happiest living there. He had no sooner finished one visit than he began planning the next. He would see Costa continually during the time he spent in Rome. Howard particularly enjoyed painting landscapes in Italy because the play of light was so different than that he found in Britain. Costa, in a letter to George of November 4, 1880, enunciated his principles of painting that were to have such an influence upon his friend and disciple:

What I want is that the person who practices art should transmit a feeling of sentiment, secondly that he should devote himself to the study of the reality of nature, and lastly that he should search for the means of expressing himself in the work of other painters and in the classical tradition” (letter in Castle Howard archives). Pieri has pointed the reverence both men had for the Old Masters of the Italian Renaissance: “Costa and Howard shared stylistic and technical concerns and aesthetic ideals which resulted in a new conception of landscape painting that had much in common with early Renaissance masters, whom they both genuinely admired. [289]


Harrison, Colin and Christopher Newall. “Giovanni Costa and The Etruscans – Painters of the Italian Landscape.” The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2010, cat. 111, 172.

Pieri, Giuliana. “Giovanni Costa and George Howard: Art, Patronage and Friendship.” The Volume of the Walpole Society LXXVI (2014): 289-307.

Last modified 18 December 2022