This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983
Howard Hinton (1867-1948), company director and patron of art, was born on 10 November 1867 at Croydon, Surrey, England, second son of Thomas Alexander Hinton, commission agent, and his wife Mary, née Howard. He attended Whitgift Grammar School, Croydon, leaving from fifth form in 1883. In his school holidays Hinton had visited the great art galleries of Europe. At every opportunity he attended art classes, but acute myopia frustrated his wish to become an artist.
Hinton arrived in Sydney in the Loch Torridon in 1892. Through Dangar, Gedye & Co., the ship's agents, he obtained a position as junior clerk with W. and A. McArthur Ltd. He travelled widely—in 1894 and 1898 visiting New Zealand; on the second trip he met Charles Goldie, the New Zealand artist, and stayed with him before going on to Rarotonga and Tahiti. When the Russo-Japanese War broke out in 1904 Hinton took the company steamer Macquarie with a cargo of wheat, oats and coal to Yokohama, Japan. After two adventure-packed years he sold the ship to the Japanese, and returned to Sydney. When his company became the McArthur Shipping & Agency Co. Ltd. in 1908, Hinton remained, becoming a director in 1916. His poor eyesight prevented his serving in World War I, despite two attempts to enlist. This was a matter of great concern to him as he was a patriotic loyalist, who gave freely of his money during the war and in World War II. His generosity was usually anonymous.
On first reaching Sydney, Hinton had probably lived with artist friends in the many camps which dotted the harbour. It was here that he met Livingston Hopkins, Julian Ashton, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, and began buying their paintings. Some time after 1900 he moved to Hazelhurst, Cremorne, where he lived for the rest of his life. He made his first gift (a collection of Phil May sketches) to the National Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1914. By 1948 he had given 122 pictures, including important works by E. Phillips Fox, George Lambert and E. Gruner, Roberts and Streeton. He was a trustee of the gallery in 1919-48. For his many benefactions, the trustees commissioned his portrait by Lambert in 1927. In 1932 the Society of Artists, Sydney, presented him with its gold medal for services to art and in 1935 he was appointed O.B.E.
Hinton retired in 1928 and visited England, returning to Australia in 1931. While abroad, possibly because the Art Gallery refused several of his gifts, he conceived the idea of endowing the Teachers' College, Armidale, with an art collection—S. H. Smith, director of education, co-operated with him. The first picture 'The Lock Gates' by Sir Adrian Stokes,. R.A., arrived in 1929. He gave over 1000 works to the college and an art library of some 700 volumes. He hoped to illustrate the development of Australia art from 1880, and the collection is widely recognized as a priceless anthology of the artistic impulse in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Australia. Norman Lindsay described it as the only complete collection of Australian art in the country, but as Hinton had no patience with modern art, this is largely unrepresented.
A shy, almost reclusive man, he was diffident in manner and hesitant in speech, and never married. Little known except to a close circle of friends, which included many artists, F. Du Boise, R. H. Goddard and the Sabiel and McGlew families, he was described as the true English gentleman, dignified yet brimming with fun. Lindsay acknowledged his personal debt to Hinton, describing 'a certain emanation of spirit from him that I can define only by the bedraggled label of faith'. As well as loving art and music, Hinton delighted in writing poetry and enjoyed surfing, philately and meeting friends at the Millions Club.
Arthur Streeton and Norman Lindsay placed him with Alfred Felton, David Scott Mitchell and Sir Baldwin Spencer as one of the great benefactors of the arts in Australia. Hinton died at Cremorne on 23 January 1948 and was cremated with Anglican rites, after a service at St James's Church, King Street, where he had worshipped.
E. S. Elphick, 'Hinton, Howard (1867–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hinton-howard-6681/text11521, accessed 18 June 2013.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983