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Housed in a custom frame., outer dimensions measure 25 ½ x 31 ½ x 2 inches; image size is 24 x 29 ¾ inches. About the artist: Beginning her career as a commercial artist, Barbara Latham travelled to Taos in 1925 seeking material for a greeting card. Serendipitously, she also found her life partner, Howard Cook, who was similarly looking for ideas for illustrations. Perhaps both were fueled in their quest by the tales of their mutual teacher, Andrew Dasburg, who knew of the energy and stimulation of this artist community. Observing local people and customs, Latham created genre scenes that offer a window into this now-vanished time and place. Her lively illustrations for numerous children’s books are a significant contribution to that graphic art in the mid-20th century. Born in Walpole, Massachusetts, Latham’s student days included Norwich Art School and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn; but it was contact with the charismatic Dasburg at the Art Students League in Woodstock that opened her world and her view of art. Getting work with companies like Norcross Publishing and Forum magazine, she eventually made her way to Taos. Among all the spirited young artists gathered there, she met Howard Cook, who was designing illustrations for Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop. The two married in Santa Fe and began a nomadic life together. The young couple made their way to Paris, a likely destination for modernist artists. Upon receiving a Guggenheim to study fresco painting in 1932, Cook, along with Latham, took an alternative direction and headed to Taxco, Mexico. At this time, Mexican muralists, such as Diego Rivera, were capturing the attention of progressive artists. During the Depression, both Cook and Latham aligned themselves with a populist ideal. Latham contributed work, such as Fording the Stream and Bear Family, to the American Artists Group, which was founded to produce original prints at affordable prices. The couple also traveled in the Deep South to the Ozarks and to “Alabama’s Black Belt.” When Latham settled in Taos, she was committed to an art of and for the people. Rather than a romanticized re-creation, her choice of subjects was based in common everyday activities, favoring those which brought people together. Taos Pueblo was an ancient, indigenous community, and Latham’s view extended that tradition into a contemporary, multi-ethnic village. Sharing some of the spirit of WPA photographs, these works deviated from documentary in the bravado of brushstroke and pulsating compositions. Providing a livelihood, Latham’s illustrations for children’s books reflected her heartfelt belief in the availability of art for all, and her style of open brushwork contributed to a modernist transformation of this graphic art. After World War II, Latham experimented with Surrealism and abstraction. Many of her painted genre scenes of the fifties simplify forms in order to intensify the interplay of color and shapes. With minimal background, figures are elegantly drawn to an essence, which seems to both capture their actions and take them out of time. Riders on horses have the same linear classicism of Parthenon sculptures, and the brilliance of figure groupings separate them from the background like a frieze. Latham selects pure pigments that lend a lively rhythm, creating a pleasing balance of stasis of vigorous movement. Latham and Cook had a long-lived marriage, which was grounded in keeping their creative life separate. Latham even confessed that she did not recognize some of her husband’s work upon exhibition. In 1976, the couple moved to Santa Fe, which became their final home. ©DCG
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