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Taos Municipal School Historic Collection

Artist: Barbara Latham
Title: November Trees I
Date: n.d.
Medium: watercolor
Dimensions: Overall: 13 1/4 x 19 in. (33.7 x 48.3 cm) Framed: 22 x 27 1/2 in. (55.9 x 69.9 cm)
Barbara Latham United States (1896 - 1989)
“I had lived under the brilliant western sky all summer, but I had never experienced such brilliance, contrasted with such fragrant desert. … I loved Taos from the moment I stepped off the train.” "I’ve been very happy here." "And I’m still having fun with my art."

Known as an accomplished painter, printmaker, and children’s book illustrator, Barbara Latham had idea of her life’s creative trajectory from an early age. At eight years old Barbara Latham won a scholarship to attend a weekend drawing class, and it sparked the young girl’s innate love of art. Shortly after high school, Latham began her more serious artistic studies at the Norwich Academy and Pratt Institute in New York City, as well as summer workshops with Anderw Dasburg at the Students League Summer School in Woodstock, New York. After a corporate stint on Madison Avenue making greeting cards, Latham relocated to the art colony of Taos, New Mexico.

It was in Taos that Latham would meet her eventual husband and fellow artist, Howard Cook. The two were introduced through Victor Higgins, and enjoyed a nurturing partnership spanning more than fifty years. The two traveled extensively through South America, Mexico, and Europe, largely the result of Cook’s Guggenheim Fellowship awards in 1932, and again in 1934. It was from these new, exotic vistas that the couple gathered unfamiliar subject matter and expanded their techniques. Much of what went into Latham’s first children’s book, “Pedro, Nina, and Perrito,” was cultivated during these travels.

In 1938, Latham and her husband purchased a home in Talpa, New Mexico. It was to become the base for a prolific artistic output, featuring everything from playful community scenes to wildlife, and landscapes in her signature stop-action style. Some of Latham’s most notable works include: “View from Our House in Talpa,” “Decoration Day,” “Tourist Town, Taos,” “Getting Ready for the Rabbit Hunt,” and “Rio Grande in the Spring.”

In 1967 the couple lived seasonally in Roswell, New Mexico, after Cook was awarded with the first artist-in-residence at the newly conceived Roswell Museum. By 1976, Howard Cook’s health was failing to the point where the couple relocated once more to a retirement home in Santa Fe. After her husband’s passing in 1980, Latham continued to travel and paint until her own passing in 1989.
Barbara Latham
Artist: Herman Rednick
Title: On the Threshold
Date: 1953
Medium: oil on masonite
Dimensions: Overall: 39 x 11 3/4 in. (99.1 x 29.8 cm) Framed: 43 x 15 3/4 in. (109.2 x 40 cm)
Herman Rednick
Herman Rednick
Artist: Bert G. Phillips
Title: Pacific Coast Near La Jolla
Date: n.d.
Medium: Oil
Dimensions: Framed: 32 x 32 in. (81.3 x 81.3 cm)
Bert G. Phillips (1868-1956)
Bert G. Phillips
Artist: Gene Kloss
Title: Penitente Good Friday
Date: 1934
Medium: print
Dimensions: Overall: 11 3/4 x 14 3/8 in. (29.8 x 36.5 cm) Framed: 20 1/8 x 22 1/4 in. (51.1 x 56.5 cm)
Gene Kloss United Stateds (1903-1996)
Born in Oakland, California, in 1903, Kloss grew up in the Bay Area. She attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied with Perham Nahl, her instructor in life class and anatomy, who also gave a course in etching. Amazed by the first print she pulled from the press, Nahl predicted she would be an etcher. Kloss spent two additional years of study at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. In 1925 she married Phillips Kloss, a poet, and they made a honeymoon journey to New Mexico. It was a decisive point in Kloss’s career, initiating a lifelong fascination with the the landscape of the Southwest and the Native American peoples who inhabited the region.

National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)

Gene Kloss and her husband, the poet Phillips Kloss, were notable figures in the Anglo community of Taos. The couple visited the area in the 1920s while on their honeymoon, and looking back on her first experience of a vibrant southwestern sunset, Gene wrote that ​“I was a New Mexican from then on.” The Klosses lived in Berkeley, California, in the cold months and returned every summer to Taos until they settled there permanently. Phillips crafted poems while Gene produced etchings and paintings of the Pueblo communities and spectacular landscapes. They chose homes that offered inspiring views from every window, and Gene wrote that ​“An artist must keep in close contact with nature and man’s fundamental reliance on nature in order to produce a significant body of work.” (Bradley, Gene Kloss: Graphic Works from Six Decades, 1984)
Gene Kloss
Artist: Ila McAfee
Title: Picuris Peak
Date: n.d.
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 15 x 26 in. (38.1 x 66 cm) Framed: 20 3/4 x 32 in. (52.7 x 81.3 cm)
Ila McAfee United States (1897-1995)
Ila McAfee was born in a Colorado ranching community, ten miles from the nearest schoolhouse. Her artistic interest began early and centered upon horses, which she would draw as a child. She received her B.A. from Western State College. Her formal art education was at the Haz Studio School in Los Angeles and the Art Institute of Chicago. Displeased with the quality of instruction, she decided to study under one particular painter she had taken courses with in Chicago, James E. McBurney. McBurney was a muralist, and took McAfee on as his assistant for several years, after which she traveled to New York to study at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League.

While in New York, McAfee worked as an illustrator and a painter of miniatures. In 1926, McAfee returned to Colorado and married Elmer Page Turner, an artist. She and Turner moved to Taos in 1928 to be a part of the burgeoning art movement of the region. There, they built White Horse Studio, which would serve as their studio and home until 1993. In Taos, McAfee painted landscapes and figures, but her specialty remained animals, specifically horses. She also took up work as an illustrator of children’s books. She worked on a number of murals, as well, though she was most famous during her lifetime for something entirely unrelated to her art; she owned a series of cats, all named Sanka, whom she taught as many as seventy five tricks each.
Ila McAfee
Artist: Martin Shaffer
Title: Pilar
Date: c.1944
Medium: Gelatin silver print photograph
Dimensions: Overall: 15 x 18 3/4 in. (38.1 x 47.6 cm) Framed: 22 1/2 x 26 in. (57.2 x 66 cm)
Martin Shaffer (1913-1985)
Martin Shaffer
Artist: James Meek
Title: Rio Grande Gorge
Date: n.d.
Medium: oil
Dimensions: Overall: 44 1/4 x 36 in. (112.4 x 91.4 cm) Framed: 46 1/2 x 38 in. (118.1 x 96.5 cm)
James Meek (1928-1985)
James Meek
Artist: Cady Wells
Title: Santa Rita
Date: n.d.
Medium: oil on canvasboard
Dimensions: Overall: 24 x 25 in. (61 x 63.5 cm) Framed: 28 1/2 x 24 in. (72.4 x 61 cm)
Cady Wells (1904 - 1954)
CADY WELLS (1904-1954), first visited Taos in 1932.

Perhaps it is to those who do not live too long that the gift is given of fully savoring every moment.

—E. Boyd, 1956

In his watercolor paintings, Cady Wells, like his teacher Andrew Dasburg, sought to capture the geometry of the land, combining his interest in landform structure with a John Marin-like boldness. A sense of rapidity often appears in Wells’s semi-abstract landscapes—particularly the early ones. Slashed with rains of line, the paintings are as much a map of the land’s movement as of the land’s form. His cuneiform-like abstractions hold all the mystery of ancient Sumerian tablets, like a language still recognizable but not exactly remembered. Such traits led Georgia O’Keeffe on more than one occasion to state that Wells (along with herself!) was one of the two or three finest painters in the Southwest. He assimilated the lessons of Dasburg and later went through a period where the work of Georges Rouault and Paul Klee influenced his work.

Wells never was a permanent resident, but he continued to visit and work in Taos after World War II, staying at a studio owned by Taos artist Rebecca James. By the late 1940s he was working in thick, full-bodied watercolor, putting down on paper a more sensual texture than in previous work to achieve fuller definitions of space. He enlarged the closely worked details in his landscapes until they developed into his late abstractions.

Wells learned the use of colored inks from Thomas Benrimo, utilizing them for dramatic effect. Influenced by the stained glass windows at Chartres Cathedral, Wells set his work in ink within a “framework of translucence and dark contrast,” as noted in the catalog of his retrospective exhibition at the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, in 1956. One critic understood the artist’s intent exactly when he noted that Wells was ornamenting “his patterns and intervals as though they were richly complex tapestries.”

Wells seemed to be finding an important new direction in his work after 1952, but he did not live long enough to fulfill its potential. It is a tragedy that Wells did not have a few more decades to explore such a promising direction.

Edited excerpt from David L. Witt, Taos Moderns: Art of the New (1992)
Cady Wells
Artist: Eleanor Reed
Title: Sea Shells
Date: 1948
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 31 1/2 x 35 in. (80 x 88.9 cm) Framed: 32 3/4 x 32 5/8 in. (83.2 x 82.9 cm)
Eleanor Reed (1913-1976)
Eleanor Reed