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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: W. Herbert "Buck" Dunton
Title: Old Taos Man of the Pueblo
Date: 1930
Medium: lithograph
Dimensions: Framed: 22 7/8 x 18 3/4 in. (58.1 x 47.6 cm)
W. Herbert "Buck" Dunton United States (1878-1936)
W. Herbert "Buck" Dunton
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 (1903-1996)
Gene Kloss
Artist: Michael Klein
Title: Pescado Azul
Date: 1956
Medium: tile
Dimensions: Framed: 12 1/2 x 13 1/4 in. (31.8 x 33.7 cm)
Michael Klein (1904-1970)
Michael Klein
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 (1897-1995)
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