Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Born 1900; died 21 January 1936 in Frankston, Victoria.
He was the eighth of nine children born to Charles Pringle Howie and Mary Ann Jane Howie, née Harris.
Malcolm was a commercial and natural history artist. He was the brother-in-law of Jim Willis, longtime staff member of the National Herbarium of Victoria, who married Malcolm's youngest sister, Mavis Eileen Howie (1906–2002), in 1933. Jim was well known as a botanist, but from his early days he also had a strong interest in fungi.
Howie suffered from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a debilitating disease that meant that from age 16 he was unable to walk, and towards the end of his life he was only able to paint with movements of his wrist.
Howie depicted around 200 different species of fungi at life size in his paintings, most created between 1931 and 1935. His paintings are precise in form and colour and jump off the page as accurate depictions of their subjects. The quality of his fungi paintings was appreciated by Ethel McLennan at the School of Botany, University of Melbourne, who commissioned copies, totalling around 80 sheets, which are still held by the School of Botany. Howie's original paintings were donated to the State Botanical Collection by the Willis family after the death of Jim Willis.
All the Howie paintings have annotations in Jim Willis's distinctive handwriting with a date and the name of the fungus, and sometimes also with a locality. Fungi paintings by Howie were reproduced in a comprehensive article by Willis in the Victorian Naturalist of 1934 entitled 'The Agaricaceae or gilled fungi'. This work was republished as the booklet Victorian Fungi in 1941 and remained in print through several editions; the latest in 1963 entitled Victorian Toadstools and Mushrooms. Most of the paintings are reproduced in black and white, but there is a colour plate of Plums and Custard (Tricholomopsis rutilans) and two composite colour plates, depicting 22 species, at less than life size.
Sources: Botanic News, Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Autumn 2014 (with corrections to birth date and siblings from Ian Howie-Willis via email, June 2015).