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Barbara Lathem was born in Walpole, Massachusetts and was a student at the Norwich Connecticut Art School, the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League in New York. In 1925, Latham moved to Taos, New Mexico where she lived with her artist husband, Howard Cook. While in New Mexico Latham concentrated her energies on the landscape near her home and on the Native American genre paintings for which she’s most recognized.
In 1925, she went to Taos, New Mexico, where she lived with her artist husband, Howard Cook, and painted joyous Southwest landscapes and genre depicting the seasons of rural life. After World War II, her work became more surrealistic. She also became known for her holiday card and children's book illustrations.