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A Creative Union

Howard Cook & Barbara Latham

For generations, the telling of art history has been punctuated with tales of love affairs and marriages between artists. Such romantic couplings among iconic figures like Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe,  Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel, and William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau have inspired artistic production worldwide. And some are visible here, in the halls of Philbrook.

The new spotlight exhibition, A Creative Union: Howard Cook and Barbara Latham, features the work of another star-crossed artistic couple from the Philbrook collection who found their voices– and each other– in the inspiring environment of the desert Southwest. A selection of approximately 20 paintings and prints by Cook and Latham, from the 1920s to the late 1950s, presents the people and places of their collective encounters, travels, and artistic explorations.

Barbara Latham made her name as a children’s book illustrator, printmaker, and painter, largely of Southwestern scenes and subjects. She studied in Brooklyn at the Pratt Institute and at the Art Students League of New York’s summer art colony in Woodstock. In 1925, she traveled to Taos, New Mexico to gather material for an illustration assignment. Upon a return visit the following year, she met Cook, whom she married in 1927.

Howard Cook, like Latham, was a native of Massachusetts who studied in New York, where he would grow his critical acclaim. Cook received two Guggenheim fellowship awards, the first of which brought the couple to Taxco, Mexico in 1932, shortly after their marriage. This trip and exposure to the technical lessons and social potency of Mexican mural painting would influence both artists’ production in proceeding decades. Together, they culled their domestic and international travel experiences into a unique form of American scene painting inspired largely by their rural Southwestern environment outside of Taos, New Mexico, where they settled. This exhibition explores their rich body of graphic and painted works which were greatly informed by their time together.

Curated by Catherine Whitney.

  • Philbrook

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