Back to the William R. Talbot Home Page.  Back to the Prints Page.
  Howard Cook. “The Village,”
Cook, The Village

Howard Cook’s “visions of America were personal observations drawn from the fabric of his life, but then transformed by an independent sensibility.”
— Janet Flint in The Graphic Work of Howard Cook

Howard Cook. “The Village,” 1928. Woodcut, number 1 from a proposed edition of 50 (35 were printed). Signed in pencil, l.r. Titled in pencil, l.l. Signed in block, l.r. Image: 6 3/4 x 12." Sheet: 7 3/4 x 13 1/4." Exceptionally strong impression in superb condition.

Howard Cook’s superb woodcut offers a nostalgic glimpse of small-town New England at a time when artists were drawn more to the dynamism of the city than the quiescence of the country. Cook, however, from the late 1920s to the early 1930s, produced quintessential images of both city and country, finding beauty and significance in many places and many forms. “All too often,” wrote Janet Flint, “American artists of the twenties and thirties are narrowly circumscribed, identified solely with urban subject matter . . . [but] Howard Cook’s career defies any kind of simple label.” Whether depicting New Mexican pueblos, New York skyscrapers, or New England churches, Cook always brought a compelling force to his images and “a pictorial integrity that was sustained and strengthened by assured composition, firm drawing, and impressive craftsmanship.

“The Village” of Cook’s print is Bernardston, Massachusetts, a tiny town located north of Greenfield, near the New Hampshire border. Likely Cook visited Bernardston in the spring of 1928 when he and his new bride, the artist Barbara Latham, traveled from their home in Taos on the first of their many auto trips across the country. The purpose of the trip was to introduce each spouse to his or her new in-laws. Howard’s family lived in Springfield, Massachusetts, some 40 miles south of Greenfield. While in the area, Cook took advantage of the subject matter he encountered by roaming the environs of Springfield. Just two years earlier, he had plunged into an enthusiastic exploration of the woodcut medium and was continually on the lookout for new material.

As in so much of Cook’s best work, “The Village” combines the artist’s technical mastery with a romantic affinity for his subject. He pares down the architectural forms of church, school, and house into simple geometric shapes, while at the same time creating an atmosphere of longing for the long ago or the far away. The lone figure with horse and buggy underscores the sense that time has stopped or passed the village by. Nuances of light and shadow inform the nostalgic atmosphere of the print.

Overall, this is a fine and striking image by the great master of American Modernist printmaking.

Ref.: Janet A. Flint, “Comments on Howard Cook’s Graphic Work,” in The Graphic Work of Howard Cook: A Catalogue Raisonné, by Betty and Douglas Duffy (Bethesda: Bethesda Art Gallery, 1984), pp. 19, 36–37; no. 101 (illus.).

Copyright 2003, William R. Talbot