Howard Cook, a Springfield, Massachusetts native, showed artistic talent at an early age, receiving a scholarship to study at the Art Students League in the early 1920s. He spent several years traveling widely, while sketching and writing for various publications of the time. When he returned to the U.S., he began focusing on printmaking, and by 1922, was being commissioned to create illustrations for prominent magazines. Having been commissioned to illustrate Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop,” he traveled west to see the setting of the book for himself.
Cook stayed in Santa Fe briefly but soon moved to Taos, where he met artist Barbara Latham, who became his wife. After traveling for a period of time, the couple returned and settled permanently in northern New Mexico. Cook pursued the art of printmaking, inspired by the New Mexico landscape and its inhabitants. Over time he became a master in the techniques of etching, aquatint, woodcut and lithography while building a national reputation.
In later life, Cook turned to pastels and painting, adding murals, oil, and watercolors to his oeuvre. In 1963, he was awarded the S. F. B. Morse Gold Medal from the National Academy of Design in recognition of his lifetime of achievement in art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art featured his work posthumously, and the Smithsonian mounted a 1984 exhibition of his prints.