The Handbook of Texas is free-to-use thanks to the support of readers like you. Support the Handbook today.

Font size: A / A reset

Cooke, Regina Tatum (1902–1988)

Kendall Curlee Biography

Regina Tatum Cooke, painter and journalist, was born on August 22, 1902, in Corsicana, Texas, the daughter of Reese and Frances Hunter Tatum. She grew up in Dalhart, where her father was a district judge; her mother, a painter and homemaker, died when Regina was a child. At age fifteen Regina accompanied her father on a visit to Taos, New Mexico. She graduated from Dalhart High School as salutatorian of her class, and subsequently attended Ward-Bellmont Junior College, a girls' school in her father's home state, Tennessee. After graduating with honors she studied under the Swedish artist Birger Sandzen at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. She also studied at Broadmoor Art Academy before receiving a bachelor's degree in art from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She married and spent the next five years in Denver, where she bore a son and exhibited her work at the Denver Art Museum. After her divorce in 1930 she returned to Dalhart.

Regina Cooke won prizes for works exhibited at the Tri-State expositions held in Amarillo in 1931–32. In 1933 the Dust Bowl prompted her to move to Taos, which became her permanent home. There she studied with Walter Ufer for two years and was heavily influenced by his realistic depiction of colorful southwestern subjects. She worked in the Regionalist style popular at the time, painting landscapes featuring the Rockies of Colorado and the mountains of New Mexico and Texas. She also painted still lifes of arrangements that typically might include garden flowers, pottery, or Indian and Mexican art objects. Cooke received several commissions from the WPA. She painted a series of reconstructions of Southwestern missions, later published in Mission Monuments of New Mexico (1943); she also painted the landscape backgrounds for a series of dioramas now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Art in Santa Fe. During the war years she taught art in several schools in southern California.

Upon her return to Taos in 1948, Cooke began her career as chronicler of the arts at the Taos Star, where she was the society and arts editor. She subsequently worked at El Crepúsculo de la Libertad before she became arts editor at the Taos News in 1959. For years Cooke reported on art events in Taos, building up a vast reserve of knowledge on its art community. She was not just an observer, however, but a participant who helped to found the Taos Art Association in 1952 and served as its first secretary. She also started the Taos municipal schools' art collection in 1948 and helped to found the Taos Little Theater.

Cooke won more than 100 state and national newspaper awards for her articles. In 1969 she received the New Mexico Press Women's Woman of Achievement Award, and in 1987 the Taos Press Women established an award in her name to recognize women who have contributed most to the arts in New Mexico. Cooke continued to write a weekly column for the Taos News and submit occasional articles to Southwest Art after her retirement in 1971. She died on September 3, 1988. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of New Mexico and the Museum of Fine Art, both in Santa Fe.

Peter Haskins Falk, ed., Who Was Who in American Art (Madison, Connecticut: Sound View, 1985). Reginald Fisher and Edgar Hewitt, Mission Monuments of New Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1943). Mary Carroll Nelson, The Legendary Artists of Taos (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1980). Taos News, September 8, 1988.


  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Visual Arts
  • Painting
  • Women

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kendall Curlee, “Cooke, Regina Tatum,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 22, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: