Peter Howson was born in London to a Scottish family who swiftly moved to Prestwick, Ayrshire, when Peter was aged just four. He was raised in a religious family and the first ever painting he did was of a Crucifixion, when he was 6 years old. He spent a short time as an infantry soldier in the Royal Highland Fusiliers but left to study at the Glasgow School of Art in 1975.
His early works are often pieces depicting working class men. Later he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum of London, to be the official war artist for the Bosnian/Hercegovina 1993. Here he produced some of his most shocking and controversial work detailing the atrocities which were taking place at the time. He was also the official war painter at the Kosovo War for the London Times.
In more recent years his work has exhibited strong religious themes which could be linked to the treatment of his alcoholism and drug addiction, after which he converted to Christianity.
His work has appeared in other media, with his widest exposure arguably for a British postage stamp he did in 1998 to celebrate engineering achievements for the millennium. In addition his work has been used on album covers for several well-known bands. Howson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2009.