Printmakers You Should Know

Last month I showed you the art of Howard Cook. Today, I'll introduce you to his equally creative wife, Barbara Latham (1896-1989).

Barbara Latham, Self-Portrait, ca. 1950s, graphite on paper. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Like Cook, Latham was originally from Massachusetts, in this case Walpole. She studied art at the Norwich Connecticut Art School, the Pratt Institute, and the Arts Student League summer school; she also studied for a time with Andrew Dasburg.

An adventurous woman, Latham moved to Taos in the mid-1920s, a bold thing to do back then. Technological amenities such as electricity and indoor plumbing, if they were available at all, were rudimentary at best. Due to its isolation, moreover, the cultural landscape of New Mexico was really distinctive and peculiar. It was a seemingly otherworldly place, which is undoubtedly why so many artists were attracted to it. Regardless, it wasn't for the faint-hearted, so the fact that Latham was willing to move there on her own testifies to her sense of independence and character.

Anyway, it was in Taos that she would meet her future husband, Howard Cook, and after marrying, she accompanied him on his adventures in Mexico, Europe, and New York. Latham would incorporate these travels into her work, producing prints, paintings, and even children's books. In addition to her own work, she helped Cook conduct the historical research on his San Antonio murals, and also assisted him on his Pittsburgh fresco.

Barbara Latham, Taxco Kitchen, 1932, woodblock print. Courtesy Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Barbara Latham, Virginia Woman, 1933, ink and watercolor on paper. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Just as Cook had started his career as an magazine illustrator, Latham also cut her artistic teeth in the illustration world, specifically greeting cards. Throughout her career she created genre scenes of the Southwest, though for a time after World War II her work became increasingly surrealistic. The RMAC has several of these more surreal works:

Barbara Latham, Life and Death, early 1940s, tempera on panel. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

During the course of her career, Latham worked in a variety of media. As a printmaker, she created wood engravings, linocuts, etchings, and lithographs. She also painted in watercolor, egg tempera, and oil.

Barbara Latham, Our Chapter, 1942, lithograph. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Barbara Latham, Stable, n.d., linocut. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Of the two artists, Howard Cook is the better known these days (though he isn't exactly a household name) but Barbara Latham was equally talented. We're lucky enough to have several of her works in the RMAC's collections, and I'd definitely like to work with them in the future.

Like Latham, we should all learn to live to the fullest.

Want to learn more? Yes you do! Go to these sites right now:

You can also look up the RMAC's holdings of Barbara Latham here: