Friday, May 20, 2022

Howard Low, Artist and Illustrator

Stephen Howard Low was born at 8:25 in the morning on April 19, 1917, in Portland, Oregon, according to his birth certificate at His parents were Herbert Low and Eunice Fung who resided at 228 Morrison Street. Low’s father was born in 1878 in San Francisco, California. The 1905 Portland city directory said he was a retail dry goods merchant at 68 Fourth Street. On January 11, 1910, Herbert Low married Eunice, the daughter of Chak Fung and Lee Shee whose children, in birth order, were Lois, Eunice, Annie, Lydia, Paul, Timothy, Rachel and Silas. The wedding was covered in The Oregonian, January 12, 1910. 
Three Ministers Tie Knot
Chinese Couple Linked Securely by Occidental Ceremony.
Because the two high contracting parties were one a Methodist and the other a Baptist and both Chinese, several hundred persons of both races packed Taylor-street Methodist Church last night to witness the marriage of Eunice Chak to Herbert Low. 

It took three clergymen to perform the ceremony, Dr. J. Whitcomb Brougher, Rev. W. B. Hollingshead, Methodist, and Chang Sing Kai, Chinese and a Methodist, strove together to make the tie indissoluble.

Miss Chak was radiant, as she proceeded along the aisle, looking up to Low, who seemed to tower above her. As she scattered the petals of her great bouquet over the audience there was a murmur of applause. 

The bride spoke her lines clearly and evidently knew both the Chinese and English ceremonies by heart. 

After the ceremony a crowd packed the apartments at 247 1/2 Stark street, where a reception was held. Then Miss Chak was presented formally as Mrs. Herbert Low, Baptist-Methodist-Chinese bride.
Photographs of the bride and groom appeared in the Oregon Sunday Journal, January 16, 1910. 

Three-and-a-half months later, the 1910 U.S. Federal Census recorded Herbert, his wife, father-in-law and two nephews, Paul and Timothy Fung, in Portland at 43 North Third Street. Paul would become the first Chinese American nationally syndicated cartoonist. Timothy would have a career as a commercial artist. 

Low’s older siblings were Edna Marion, born January 22, 1911; Clara Grace, born July 27, 1912; and Herbert Theodore, born May 28, 1914. 

On June 13, 1919, the Oregon Daily Journal and The Oregonian reported the Rose Festival Chinese baby show. Two-year-old Low won best boy under six years old. The Oregon Daily Journal described the event.
Clad in resplendent costumes of red, yellow, purple, green and black, two score calm and placid Chinese youngsters, and as many excited and fidgety mothers, with once in a while in strange contrast an Oriental baby in American clothing, contributed to make the Rose Festival Chinese baby show in the oriental gardens in the north park blocks Thursday afternoon a “magnificent” success.

A combination of oriental head dresses, Chinese language and bright gay slippers, with all the colors of the spectrum and a few more for good measure, added additional interest that drew a large crowd of spectators.

The winners were chosen by a committee of judges which included Dr. J. F. Drake, Ben Selling and Mrs. C. B. Simmons. The arrangements were in charge of a special committee appointed by the Rose Festival association, which consisted of Ira. L. Riggs and W. E. Conklin. Silver cups and gold and silver chains were distributed to the winning babies by Mr. Conklin. 
In the early 1920s, the Lows travelled to China. On June 22, 1922, the Low family and Mrs. Chak Fung and her two sons, Timothy and Silas, arrived in Seattle, Washington from China by way of Vancouver, British Columbia. They continued on to Portland. 

On February 11, 1926, Low’s brother, Allan Wesley, was born. 

Nine months later, Low’s father passed away. His death was noted in The Oregonian, November 9, 1926.
Funeral Notices.
Low—In this city, November 7, Herbert Low, husband of Eunice Low and father of Edna, Clara, Herbert, Howard and Allan Low. Friends are invited to attend the funeral services Tuesday, November 9, at 2:30 P.M., at the chapel of Holman & Lutz, Third and Salmon. Interment Mt. Scott cemetery.
Sometime later, Low’s family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where Timothy and Silas Fung had trained at the Meyer Both College of Commercial Art. Silas stayed in Chicago, while Timothy moved to New York. The 1930 census recorded Low, his mother, a teacher, and two brothers in Chicago at 244 Alexander Street. 

On January 15, 1931, Low’s mother married Harry Lewis in Chicago. 

Slightly distorted 1923 passport photograph 
of Low’s step-father, Harry Lewis. 

Later in 1931, Low’s brother, Herbert, graduated from Harrison Technical High School. It’s not known which schools Low and Allan attended. Without a doubt, Low was influenced by his artistic uncles, Paul, Timothy and Silas Fung 

In the early 1930s the family moved to New York. Low was mentioned in the Nassau Daily Review-Star (Freeport, New York), December 2, 1935.
Miss Margaret Cummins, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J. Elmer Cummins of North Bergen place, Freeport, and art student at the Cooper Union Institute in Manhattan, entertained at luncheon at her home, Saturday afternoon, for a group of classmates. Her guests included Miss Jane McNaught, Howard Low and Miss Virginia Hoeffler of Manhattan, John Maxson of Westchester, and Miss Sara Dean of Pelham.
The New York Post, October 24, 1936, reported on the Chinese Art Club in Chinatown.
Those who cherish the racial interpretation of art will find some matter to ponder in the exhibit by members of the Chinese Art Club in their new quarters at 175 Canal Street. For nine-tenths of the work shown is indistinguishable from contemporary occidental art.

Howard Low is most alert to advanced modern trends, creating abstract designs, lively drawings of city life, and intimate paintings like “Goldfish Bowl,” all very well done. Chu W. Young is an able exponent of impressionist landscape art, and Chu H. Jor paints still life with a soft patine of color. Others showing are Mowee Tiam, Harry Wong, Stanley Chin, Tschai Lanzene, K. L. Eng, Bennie Sonn and S. V. Pang.
Low studied art at Cooper Union in New York City. Below is the 1937 Cable yearbook page with his name and address. 

The Clarke Auction Gallery said Low graduated from Cooper Union in 1938. 

According to the 1940 census, the household included Low, his mother, two brothers, step-father, Timothy Fung and Paul Chu. They resided in Manhattan, New York at 611 West 158 Street. Low’s occupation was artist at an art studio. 

On October 16, 1940, Low signed his World War II draft card. His address, 611 West 158 Street, was later crossed out and updated to 24 Canterbury Road, Rockville Centre, New York. (The new address appeared on his step-father’s card which was signed on April 25, 1942.) He was described as five feet five inches, 126 pounds with black eyes and hair. 

In 1941 Low illustrated the menu cover of the Shanghai Royal restaurant near Times Square. 

The Nassau Daily Review-Star, March 12, 1942, said 
Howard Low, Rockville Centre, artist, will address the paletteers Art club of South Side High school, tonight at 7:30 o’clock. Mr. Low will show examples of his work, among which will be costumes designed by him for an original Chinese ballet.
Low’s illustrations were published in Fortune, May 1943, for the article “China’s Last Lifeline”. 

Low enlisted in the Army on March 27, 1943. The Nassau Daily Review-Star, March 6, 1946, said Corporal Low was honorably discharged at Fort Dix, New Jersey. The April 16, 1946 edition of the Nassau Daily Review-Star said Low “was recently discharged after serving as an artist-correspondent in the Pacific.”

Art Digest, August 1, 1950, mentioned Low’s show of ink rubbings and wire mobiles at the Wittenborn gallery. 

In 1953 Low’s illustrations appeared in several issues of Theatre Arts including March, April and May

Low was a member of Associated American Artists. Through this organization he produced, in 1954, a textile pattern called Tea House

San Angelo Standard-Times (Texas) January 29, 1955

Vogue Pattern Book, February-March 1955

Associated American Artists, Inc. held the copyright to Low’s paintings “Cosmic Bouquet” and “Westward Ho”. The Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume 115, Parts 1984–1985, had the following listing. 
Howard Low, (designer), Associated American Artists (manufacturer); textile sample; machine woven and printed cotton, “Cosmic Bouquet” pattern; 1958; 1985.109.3; Geoffrey N. Bradfield Gift 
Another fabric pattern by Low was called “School Days”. 

Evansville Courier and Press (Indiana), May 22, 1955

Art Digest, May 15, 1955, noted the Associated American Artists exhibition. 
Howard Low and Vincent Malta
This two-man show, their first New York exhibition, contrasts the approaches of two young painters, Howard Low and Vincent Malta. Both tend toward non-figurative expression, but where Malta’s forms are based upon his contemporary environment, Low’s originate with past and primitive cultures; Malta’s color is often glazed into high luminosity, Low’s is relatively dry and opaque without losing its harmonious lustre. Malta’s rhythms are baroque, retaining aspects of Bonnard and Soutine in their richly pigmented layers; Low’s emphasize simple vertical forms stylized into quietly whimsical presences. (AAA, to May 28.)
Low’s work was on the cover of Fortune’s July 1957 issue. This cover was designed by Leo Lionni and above it was Low’s frieze, signed on the far left, of a construction scene. 

Low’s advertisement illustrations, for Gamins shoes at the Andrew Geller stores, appeared in The New Yorker magazines in 1958.

Some of Low’s commercial work was in the 31st Annual of Advertising and Editorial Art and Design (below, Sanford Maizel advertisement), the 38th Annual of Advertising and Editorial Art and Design (below, shoe illustration), and Art Direction, June 1955. 

In 1958 and 1959 Low was a regular contributor to Redbook: April 1958; July 1958; August 1958; September 1958; January 1959; and February 1959. Also in 1958, Low’s work appeared in the October House & Garden

The gallery listings in Art News, May 1958, included the Mi Chou Gallery. 
Prints … by five Chinese artists include Zao Wou-ki’s lithographs, a blend of human and natural tracings—ancient civilizations or migrations of snails might have passed over his stones and left behind their opalescent subtly-tangled histories, Wang Yien-koo, the only woman in the group, shows dreamy creatures, with nothing but two eyes in their mind. Howard Low, with his own private symbols, is always clear, amusing and poised. Chinn Yuen Yuey tends toward a Western aggression with large woodcuts of grooved, splintered and spiky kite shapes. Seong Moy does even more so with bright Expressionist swirling. $20–$75.
Low’s show at Mi Chou was mentioned in the January 1959 Art Digest and Art News (below). 
Howard Low [Mi Chou; Jan. 13–Feb. 7] was born in Portland, Ore., studied art at Cooper Union and has been seen in many group shows in New York. His paintings wittily reduce representation to its essentials: stylized stick figures or signs are distributed sparingly on monotone backgrounds with simplicity of intent and means. Prices unquoted.
In the Mill Valley Oral History Program, Low was remembered by artist Margaret Zegart, “... Another person that I met was someone called Howard Low. I did have an exhibit of prints with Howard Low’s drawings and mine …” 

Low wrote about himself for the March 1960 issue of Mademoiselle

This issue featured his illustrations for “New Figure Orientations” and “Translation from the Chinese”. 

In the 1960s Low’s art was featured on American Artists Group Christmas cards which were highlighted and reproduced in newspapers. 

San Francisco Chronicle (California)
November 23, 1961

Grand Rapids Press (Michigan)
November 8, 1964

Low’s step-father passed away on February 26, 1973. Four months later his mother passed away on July 7, 1973. They founded the Chinese Evangelistic Center in May 1944. 

Low illustrated the 1976 book, Celebrity Exercise: The Secrets of Exercise Success from Famous People

A Spring 1984 issue of Art Now/U.S.A. listed paintings by Low at the Somerstown Studios & Gallery in Somers, New York.

Low passed away on November 9, 1990. According to the Social Security Death Index, his last residence was New York City. 

SIDEBAR: Howard Low’s Siblings

Edna Marion Low
January 22, 1911, Portland, Oregon – September 23, 1996
Married Mann Kwong Wong

Clara Grace Low
July 27, 1912, Portland, Oregon – February 10, 2013, California
Married William Hong Sling, 1929
Married Shih-Chang Shen, 1944

Oregon Journal, April 6, 1947

May 28, 1914, Portland, Oregon – October 5, 2000, Hawaii
Married Carol Young, 1947

Harrisonian 1931 yearbook
Harrison Technical High School

Violet 1936 yearbook
New York University

Allan Wesley Low
February 11, 1926, Portland, Oregon – 

The Tower 1945 yearbook
Wheaton College

The Tower 1946 yearbook
Wheaton College

The Kent 1956 yearbook
Kent School

The Kent 1957 yearbook
Kent School

Social Studies
Mast 1968 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1969 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1970 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1971 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1972 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1973 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1974 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1975 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1976 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1977 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1978 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1979 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1980 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1981 yearbook
Garden City High School

Mast 1982 yearbook
Garden City High School

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  1. Alex, this is excellent and really impressive work. Many kudos to you.

    Despite the outstanding work, I managed to spot a couple of errors. First off, you say that Herbert Low and Eunice Fung were married on January 6, 1910. I assume that’s a typo, because the article below it is dated January 12, 1910 and says, “several hundred persons of both races packed Taylor-street Methodist Church LAST NIGHT.” (Capitalization added by me.) That would make it January 11, 1910. I have several other articles about the wedding, all of which date it January 11.

    A more substantive discrepancy is where you say, “On June 22, 1922, the Low family and Chak Fung and his two sons, Timothy and Silas, arrived in Seattle…” That’s impossible, because Chak Fung (or “Fung Chak,” as he used the traditional Asian practice of placing the surname first) died in 1914.

    This is from the Oregon Daily Journal, March 10, 1914: “CHINESE MISSIONARY REV. FUNG CHUK [sic] DIES. A letter received by Seid Back Jr. from friends in Shanghai, China, brings word of the death in that city of Rev. Fung Chuk, February 17 last. Mr. Fung was pastor of the Baptist Chinese mission in this city for many years, leaving to take up missionary work in China about two years ago. Paul Timothy Fung, a Chinese boy with considerable talent as a cartoonist, and Mrs. Herbert Low, both of this city, are his children. He also left a wife and son in Shanghai. The letter said that the funeral was very impressive. Mr. Fung came to America as a youth, and was ordained as a minister here. He was about 60 years old.”

    So then who is this “Chak Fung” who appears on the ship’s passenger list in 1922? If you look carefully, you’ll see that, under “Sex,” it says “F.” I believe this is Timothy and Silas’s mother, rather than their father. The 1930 and 1940 censuses show her living in Chicago with Silas, under the name “Chak Fung.” Pinning down her exact name is difficult, as I’ve seen it listed in various documents as “Cheung King Hin,” “Fung Lee Chak,” “Chay Fang Fung,” “Chay Fune,” “Chong Fune,” “Chak Fung,” “Cheney Choi Fung,” “Choy Fung,” and “Phoebe Chung.” Even her children seemed confused about it. In his 1908 Chinese Exclusion Act interview, Timothy is asked his mother’s name and replies, “I don’t know.” In the 1920 Exclusion Act interviews, Eunice calls her mother “Choy Fung.” But I have a document entitled “Oregon War Records – Personal Military Service,” filled out by Eunice for Timothy and dated April 8, 1919. On it the mother’s maiden name is listed as “Cheung King Hin.”

    Again, this is great work, Alex. I’m really impressed.

    1. Thanks for the corrections, Jim. Obviously you've researched the Fung family. What is your interest in them? My interest began with Paul Sr. the cartoonist.

    2. My interest began with Paul Sr. as well. I've collected some early Blondie Sundays, which led me to Dumb Dora and Paul. Recently, I came across a Funny Fables cartoon written by Paul and wanted to learn more about him. Since his Wikipedia entry is rather sparse, I started researching him and his family on Ancestry and I thought I'd do a blog entry about him on my JD's Comics History Hub. Then I came across your extensive work and found that you had many (but not all) of the same documents I had, as well as many I didn't have. I may still do a blog entry, but as I have a lot of other projects in the works, it may be a while.