Born in Walpole, Massachusetts in 1896, artist and illustrator Barbara Latham grew up immersed in the world of science and art. She attended the Norwich Connecticut Art School, where her painting and illustration talent was nurtured and honed. In 1915, she continued her studies at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, graduating in 1919. As a young adult, Latham lived and worked in New York City, creating illustrations primarily for Norcross Publishing Company on Madison Avenue, but also had her work featured in Forum Magazine and the New York Times Sunday magazine. She spent one summer at the Art Students League summer program in Woodstock, New York, working with noted modernist painter Andrew Dasburg.
In 1925, Latham traveled to Taos, New Mexico, to gather material for illustrations and greeting cards. Immediately taken with the landscape, Latham created striking paintings and prints of New Mexico’s rose-colored deserts, open sky, jagged mesas, and rugged lands. She also explored and depicted the everyday life of the Taos Pueblo Indians, creating impressive genre scenes of the homes, markets, and bustling hubs of Taos.
It was also in Taos where she was introduced by friend Victor Higgins to a fellow New England painter and printmaker, Howard Cook. Latham and Cook married in 1927. The couple had a beautiful and nurturing relationship, and benefited from each other’s artistic exploration and success. Shortly after marrying, the newlywed couple began extensive traveling- visiting Mexico, Europe, the American South, and parts of the Northeast.
In 1933, on Cook’s first Guggenheim fellowship, the couple relocated to the silver mining town on Taxco, Mexico. It was here that Latham collected imagery which later turned into scenes for her first children book, Pedro, Nina & Perrito (published by Harper & Brother, in 1939). Latham explored the beautiful landscape and spent time with the people of Taxco, documenting all of her impressions in journals and illustrations.
Latham drew recognition for her printmaking and illustrations, working in the mediums of lithographs, etchings, and starkly contrasted black-and-white woodcuts and wood engravings. In 1934, Latham had a one-person show at the Weyhe Gallery in New York, a gallery known for its active support of printmakers.
After more traveling, Latham and Cook moved again in 1938 to Talpa Ridge, New Mexico, which became their permanent home for the next 35 years. Here Latham experimented with semi-abstract egg tempera paintings, and oil and watercolor paintings of natural history subjects. She also ventured into textile and clothing design, creating intricate patterns and focusing on hand-dying all her own fabrics.
Latham is celebrated today for her depictions of the American southwest, both in paintings and print form. Her illustrations are in over 17 children’s books and many of her early greeting cards are collected to this day.
We invite our OPG Blog readers and collectors to visit both our New York store and our Georgetown store to see these prints in person.
Prints at The Old Print Gallery, Georgetown: Geraniums, The Old Sink
Prints at The Old Print Shop, New York City: In The Park, Nina Pedro and Perrito, Our Mexican Kitchen, Saturday Morning- Taos, Taos Pueble, Taos Village with Pueblo Indians