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 Howard Norton Cook  (1901 - 1980)

About: Howard Norton Cook
 

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/California/Massachusetts      Known for: easel and mural painting, graphics

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BIOGRAPHY for Howard Cook
Facts/Data
Birth
1901 (Springfield, Massachusetts)
 
Death
1980 (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Lived/Active
New Mexico/California/Massachusetts

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easel and mural painting, graphics

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Taos Pre 1940
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Considered one of America's best-known print makers including a series of woodcuts of the Grand Canyon in 1927, Howard Cook was also a painter, illustrator and lecturer who served frequently as guest professor in numerous universities and art schools.

He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and took his formal art training at the Art Students League in New York, beginning 1919 and then traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, Turkey, the Orient, and Central America.

In 1926, he took his first trip West and served as an illustrator for "Forum" magazine. He married Barbara Latham, modernist Southwest artist, and also developed a great fascination for the Santa Fe and Taos areas, where he became a resident.

In 1937, he won the largest mural commission ever given to a Taos artist when the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture chose him to paint sixteen fresco murals in the lobby of the main post office in San Antonio, Texas. His frescoes portray a history of Texas from the days of the Spanish conquest to the 1930s. In 1967 was appointed the first artist-in- residence at the Roswell Museum in Roswell, New Mexico.

In the 1930s, he twice earned Guggenheim Fellowships, spending one year and a half painting in Taxco, Mexico, and also time in the Deep South where he painted and did prints of genre scenes of black people. These works are now in the Georgia Museum of Art and the J. Frank Dobie Collection at the University of Texas.

During World War II, he was an artist and war correspondent in the South Pacific, and his illustrations from this time were exhibited at the War department at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and later circulated as a traveling exhibition.


Source:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"
Dean Porter, etc; "Taos Artists and Their Patrons"

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Springfield, MA on July 16, 1901. Cook was in and out of Los Angeles in the 1930s and active in the local art scene.

By 1940 he was in New Mexico; he died in Santa Fe in 1980.

Member: LA AA; NA.

Exhibitions:
PM Int’l, LACMA, 1931; LA AA, 1935; LA Public Library, 1937; LA Co. Fair, 1939; Calif. WC Society, 1939-42; Biltmore Gallery (LA), 1949; De Young Museum, 1952.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who's Who in American Art 1936-70.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from The Owings Gallery:
Howard Cook began his career with a $500 scholarship that sent him from his native Springfield, Massachusetts to New York City and the Art Students League. After two years at the League, Cook was impatient to see the world. He made his first trip to Europe in 1922, sketching and writing travel articles for a few publications back home. That winter he returned to the Art Students League to study etching under Joseph Pennell.

It was at this time that Cook began his investigation of printmaking, concentrating on the etching medium primarily but exploring the woodcut as well. From 1922 to 1927 Cook worked as an illustrator for top magazines such as Forum and Century. In 1926 Forum gave him a commission to illustrate Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop. The woodcut technique was selected as appropriate for this purpose, and Cook decided to go to New Mexico to see the country which inspired this novel.

Cook lived for two months in Santa Fe before moving to an old hotel in Taos. There he met fellow artist Barbara Latham and they were married in Santa Fe in 1927. They traveled together for eight years, returning to New Mexico on occasion, before settling in Talpa, a tiny village south of Taos.

Cook began in the mid-Twenties, to seriously explore the creative possibilities of various graphic media. In 1929, Howard and Barbara traveled to Paris. It was there that Cook took up lithography, producing his first prints in this medium at the Desjobert lithographic studio. During his time in New Mexico, Cook created a series of prints that reflected his fascination with the various cultures in the region. Scenes of Indian ceremonial dances are charged with the excitement that Cook himself must have felt. Several landscapes capture the broad expanses and rugged beauty of the terrain. The angular forms of adobe and pueblo structures seem to have been especially appealing, for they appear in a number of prints. The manner and direction of cutting, alone shapes and defines the ascending dark masses of the pueblo. Shimmering whites enliven pure blacks, obscuring details and endowing the whole with a mysterious grandeur.Cook devoted a decade of his life to the art of printmaking.

He mastered each of the major mediums – etching, aquatint, woodcut, wood engraving, and lithography – and produced outstanding examples of each medium. Having achieved a first-rank national reputation through his prints, he was ready for something else. He turned first to murals, then to pastel drawings and watercolors, and finally to oils and collages. Once he started in this new direction, Cook never seriously returned to printmaking.

In 1932, Cook was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study fresco painting. After technical investigations of the medium in Mexico, he was commissioned to do a number of murals in federal buildings in the Mid-West and in Texas. He employed a style in these compositions that depended upon simplified massing of shapes to set up a rhythm sympathetic to the subjects treated.

In the 1940s Cook was well-known for his watercolors, particularly his scenes of the Taos Valley. In later years he also painted oils of Indian dancers, and landscapes that are filled with texture and abstract decoration, and are more involved with rhythm than pictorial accuracy. To create the effect of a dance, for example, he worked out a schematic design whose pulsating vitality relates to the movement of the dancers. This quality of energy in the work itself links Cook’s paintings, murals, and prints throughout the subtle changes in his style. “I’ve always wanted the suggestion of movement in my work,” he said.

Oils and later collages, occupied his attention after World War II. He pursued a logical development in these works. Out of his illustrator’s style, which allowed few pictorial concessions, he gradually evolved a more abstract mode. Inspired by the rugged mountains of Taos near his home he created a group of pictures which are characterized by weaving ribbons of pigments which outline forms of various scale and are subdued in color.

In 1952 the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in concert with the de Young Museum of San Francisco organized an exhibition of twenty of Cook’s pastels – an exhibition which traveled during the following two and a half years to twenty-six museums and art centers across the nation. Throughout the 1950s and 60s Cook prepared for numerous one-man exhibitions of his drawings, watercolors, and oils in cities from coast-to-coast. He also served as guest professor or resident artist at several universities and art centers including, Berkeley, Colorado Springs, St. Louis, and Albuquerque.

In 1936 Cook received the prestigious S.F.B. Morse Gold Medal from the National Academy of Design in recognition of his lifetime achievements in art. Tragically in the same year, Cook was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Eventually the Cooks gave up their beloved home in Talpa and moved first to Roswell then finally to Santa Fe in order to be closer to medical facilities. The rapid pace of exhibitions and honors which for so many years had characterized his life slowed to a near stand-still due to his illness.

Most artists’ careers would probably have ended under these circumstances, however, Cook’s career experienced a resurgence, not because of any new works, but because of his enduring past achievements. In 1976 Howard Cook’s graphics were featured in a large exhibition at a private gallery in Washington, DC, as well as in a one-man exhibition in a prominent gallery in New York City. This exposure of Cook’s graphic work triggered a resurgence of interest in Howard Cook. Since that time his prints have been shown regularly in commercial exhibitions around the country, and numerous museum exhibitions have also included his works, most notably, the Working America exhibition in the spring of 1983 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

In 1979 Cook was honored with the New Mexico Governor’s Award for achievement in the arts, which put him in the company of such great American artists as Georgia O’Keeffe and Andrew Dasburg.Cook took much satisfaction from these honors and successes, but by the late 1970s his health had reached a critical point. The artist who had astonished even the master etcher John Taylor Arms with the subtlety of line in his prints was now able to pen only brief, barely legible messages. Howard Cook died on June 24, 1980 in a hospital in Santa Fe.

In January of 1984 a major exhibition of the artist’s prints opened at the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC. Cook’s works continue to hold the same power to move and impress it’s audience as it did a half-century ago. Created with honesty, vigor, and freshness of vision, his legacy of fine prints insures Howard Cook an enduring place in the history of American art.

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Howard Cook was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. He headed for New York City in 1919 with a $500 scholarship to attend the Art Students League, where he studied for two years with George Bridgman, Max Weber and Andrew Dasburg. While he wasn't in class he painted outdoor billboards and worked in lithography and photo-engraving shops. In 1922 he began to work as an illustrator creating his woodcuts and drawings for magazines such as Harper's, Scribner's, Atlantic Monthly, Forum and Survey. His travel for these assignments took him to many places including his first visit to Europe.

Upon his return he began studies at the Art Students League with Joseph Pennell. It was during this time that he became interested in printmaking, primarily etching, but learning woodcutting as well. It was while working as an illustrator for Forum and Century magazines he was given a commission to illustrate Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop for Forum. Being curious about the land that inspired the story, Cook left for New Mexico. He spent two months in Santa Fe before moving to Taos. While in Taos he met and in 1927 married fellow artist Barbara Latham. The excitement of his time in Taos was reflected in the depiction of the ceremonial dancers from the pueblos and the form and drama of the adobe structures and local landscape captured in his many prints. Also in 1927 he did a popular series of woodcuts of the Grand Canyon. The couple then travelled to Paris in 1929 so Cook could learn lithography. When they returned to New York, he exhibited subject matter which dealt primarily with the many construction projects in the city.

By 1931 Cook had his work represented four times in "50 Prints of the Year". Two Guggenheim Fellowships were awarded him in the 1930s which led to his painting for a year and a half in Taxco, Mexico to study frescos. The second fellowship took him to the American South and found him painting murals of the poverty in that area of the country. Cook and his wife settled in Talpa, New Mexico south of Taos in 1935. In 1937 he was awarded the largest mural commission ever given to a Taos artist. It was for sixteen fresco murals in the lobby of the main post office in San Antonio, Texas. The same year he was awarded the Gold Medal for mural painting by the Architectural League of New York.

In the 1940s Cook's work focused on watercolors of mostly Southwest scenes. During World War II he served in the Navy in the South Pacific as an artist-war correspondent. His paintings from the war were displayed in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and also in a traveling exhibition the War Department funded. He was elected to membership in the National Academy as a graphic artist in 1949.

By the end of the 40s, Cook was painting in oil and his style had become much more abstract and consisted primarily of earth colors. He moved more toward collage by the 1950s. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art in concert with the De Young Museum of San Francisco organized a travelling exhibit in 1952 of twenty of his pastel works, which went to twenty-six museums and art centers across the country. He was the first grantee of the Artist in Residence Program at the Roswell Museum in 1967. He received the SFB Morse Gold Medal in 1976 from the National Academy of Design in recognition of his artistic lifetime achievements. The same year he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and his artwork quickly came to a close.

During his long career he frequently taught as a guest professor at many art schools and universities. His work continued to gain in appreciation long after he could no longer produce any art. Among the numerous museum exhibitions his work appeared in was the Working America Exhibition in 1983 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. A major exhibit of Cook's work opened in 1984 at the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. He died in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1980.

Bibliography
1. Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST, Peggy and Harold Samuels
2. Grand Canyon Association
3. Smithsonian American Art Museum
4. Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
5. The Harwood Museum of Fine Art
6. Phoenix Art Museum

Biography from David Cook Galleries:

Howard Norton Cook
Born Massachusetts, 1901
Died New Mexico , 1980

Howard Norton Cook left his childhood home in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1919 to receive formal training in New York at the Art Students League. While in New York, Cook studied under George Bridgman and attended an experimental class with Max Weber and Andrew Dasburg. He spent his time between sessions painting outdoor billboards and working in lithography and photo-engraving shops.

In 1922, Cook began work as an illustrator, contributing woodcuts and drawings to Harper’s, Scribner’s, Survey, Atlantic Monthly, and Forum. Various assignments allowed him to travel all over the world. Cook was on assignment for Forum to illustrate the serialization of Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop when he first visited New Mexico in 1926. Cook remained in New Mexico for a year and a half, during which time he met and married artist Barbara Latham.

During the next few years, the couple traveled to Paris where Cook studied in a prominent lithographic workshop; to Taxco, Mexico, where he studied fresco painting on a Guggenheim fellowship; and to the Deep South of the United States on a second Guggenheim fellowship.

In 1935, Cook and Latham settled in Taos, New Mexico. By that time, Cook had been represented in 50 Prints of the Year several times, yet his focus turned to fresco painting. He traveled across throughout the United States on mural commissions and, in 1937, the Architectural League of New York awarded Cook the Gold Medal for mural painting.

Cook later served in the Navy as an artist-war correspondent in the South Pacific. His paintings from that period were exhibited in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and later displayed across the U.S. in a traveling exhibition funded by the War Department. After returning from the war, Cook produced several powerful lithographs depicting his experiences in the South Pacific. In 1949, he was elected to membership in the National Academy as a graphic artist.

During the 1940’s, Cook was known for his watercolors set in New Mexico. Later paintings in oil became increasingly abstract. Some of the artist’s favorite subjects included Southwestern landscapes and Indian dances that focused on conveying a strong sense of movement.
Throughout his career, Cook was a guest professor at many art schools and universities and in 1967, he became the first artist in residence at the Roswell Museum, Roswell, NM. Howard Cook remained in New Mexico until his death in 1980.

Biography from William R Talbot Fine Art:
In his lifetime, Howard Norton Cook (1901-1980) developed a national reputation as a painter and muralist. Today, however, he is better known as one of America’s premier printmakers. His printmaking spanned five decades, with his work of the 1920s and 1930s considered to be his finest.

Cook traveled to Mexico in 1932–33 on a Guggenheim Fellowship in order to pursue “a pictorial study of a civilization unaffected by the machine age,” as he wrote in his application . . . “To make a series of drawings and prints in etching, wood-engraving and lithography depicting the people of Mexico, their occupations and crafts, their peaceful and self-reliant lives.” The village of Taxco provided the perfect setting. He and his wife, the artist Barbara Latham, settled there after a brief stay in Mexico City.

By then, Cook had fallen under the spell of the Mexican muralists, especially the work of Diego Rivera, whose aesthetic and stylistic innovations inspired a turning point in Cook’s work. Up to this time, Cook had created mostly abstract cityscapes and some landscape prints, but under the influence of the muralists, he now applied modernist principles to the human figure. During his year and a half in Taxco, he made countless portrait studies from locally hired models and became a keen observer of the colorful village life and its customs. While Cook abstracted his figures into idealized shapes with powerful tonal contrasts, at the same time he maintained a genuine sense of human warmth.

Howard Cook's artworks are held in a number of important permanent collections including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

Ref.: Janet A. Flint in Duffy, The Graphic Work of Howard Cook: Catalogue Raisonné (1984), pl. 31, p. 36; cat. no. 174.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
Howard Norton Cook
Born: Springfield, Massachusetts 1901

Taos painter, etcher, muralist, teacher

Howard Cook studied at the Art Students League from 1919-21 with Dasburg and in Europe. He began work as a commercial artist. From 1922 to 1927 he was an illustrator for Century, Scribner’s, and Harper’s, traveling on sketching assignments to Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America. In 1926, Forum sent Cook to Taos for woodcuts to illustrate “Death Comes for the Archbishop.” Cook remained in Taos for a year and a half, specializing in graphic. By 1931 he had been represented in “50 Prints of the Year” four times. Next Cook turned to murals. On fellowships 1932-33 and 1934-35 he studied fresco in Mexico and sketched scenes of poverty in the American South for murals in Pittsburgh and San Antonio.

Cook settled in Taos in 1935 with his wife, the artist Barbara Latham. Most of his work was in painting and murals. During WWII, Cook was an artist for the US Navy. He became a teacher in New Mexican universities and a guest professor. By the end of the 1940s his landscapes were moving toward the abstract. His scenes of Indian dances went beyond the reality of earlier painters, into a personal view of the essence of the movement. His palette was generally confined to earth colors. In the 1950s Cook exhibited collages.

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing



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