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Famous Artist – Howard Terpning

Howard Terpning ArtistHoward Terpning is an American painter and illustrator known for his paintings of the Native Americans. He is considered a true master by his peers, collectors, and admirers of the American west.

Terpning’s works are centered around what you’d call the wild west. They are historical records of the culture, way of life, and religion of the Northern Plains Indians in a more contemporary style relevant to recent times.

This article takes you through his life, career, commercial and fine art, artwork, and influence on western art.

Howard Terpning

Howard Terpning is one of the most renowned painters of western art. He has won so many awards and lauded more times than you could care to count. Terpning’s most notable awards include the Hubbard Art Award for Excellence and the National Academy of Western Art’s Prix de West.

Born on November 5, 1927, Howard Terpning was educated at the Chicago Academy for the Arts and later at the American Academy of Art College.

Terpning went to New York to pursue his art profession, where he faced disappointments and returned to Chicago, where he trained under Haddon Sundblom.

Later in 1977, he left the city and moved to Tuscon to dedicate his time to record the culture and the history of the Native Americans.

Is Howard Terpning Still Painting?

At the age of 93, Howard Terpning is still painting in his Tuscon studio every morning.

Howard Terpning Art Career

Howard Terpning’s illustrious art career spans more than seven decades both as a painter and an illustration, both of which are pretty successful. He is a living master of western art.


Howard Terpning started his commercial art career as an apprentice under Haddon Sundblom, eventually freelancing. His art was featured in various prestigious magazines such as Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, Time, Good Housekeeping, etc.

In a profession spanning 25 years, Howard Terpning gained attention with his illustrations, both editorial, and advertising. Besides these, he also illustrated articles and stories for McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, etc.

Besides illustrations, he also did close to 80 movie posters during this period, the most famous of which is “The Guns of Navarone,” “The Sound of Music,” “Dr. Zhivago,” and a re-issue of “Gone with the Wind”.

Amid his commercial success, he was invited by the marines as their civilian combat artist. He produced six works of art that are currently present in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Terpning being a major, saw everything first hand, including the suffering of the Americans and also of the enemies.

This empathy later transferred to the Native American who was hurting at the hands of the settlers who coveted their lands.

Fine Art

Gaining his first success through his posters and illustrations, Howard Terpning turned his attention to fine art in the 1970s, fueled by his love of western art.

Intrigued with the West and Native American culture, Howard Terpning moved to Arizona to further his occupation and master the craft. In just two years, he established himself in his fine art career.

His historical accuracy and technical prowess are the foundations for his artwork. You can often see items from Terpning’s personal collection of Indian artifacts interspersed in his paintings.

His fine art paintings are currently sold in galleries throughout the US, including Autry National Center, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians, as well as Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Howard Terpning in Western Art

Howard Terpning - Western PaintingsIn 1977, Terpning moved to Tuscon to chronicle the Native American culture focussing on the American West and Plains Indians.

Howard Terpning is one of the most lauded painters of Western art. He has received more honor and recognition than any other current western artist. The reason being, the subject matter of his paintings is the Native Americans. They not just tell a story but are also an accurate depiction of their history, lifestyle, and culture.

In Terpning’s own words, “The American Indian fascinates me. The more I study them, the more intrigued I become. There’s always another story waiting to be told.”

Howard Terpning is known for his incredible and talented brushwork and extraordinary ability to evoke emotions and compassion through his paintings, hence the name “The Story Teller of the Native American”.

Over a period of 40 years, he produced over 500 works, including charcoal drawings of the free-spirited tribes of the Great Plains of America.

His effort to document the life of the plains Indians was recognized. Consequently, he was elected to the National Academy of Western Art and Cowboy Artists of America in 1979. He has been an active member of the latter for about 22 years.

Famous Paintings of Howard Terpning

Being one of the premier artists of the western art world, Howard Terpning has created some of the best and most realistic works about the American Indian.

Here are a few of his most famous artwork:

Awards Received by Howard Terpning

Over a career spanning more than six decades, Howard Terpning has received over 60 awards, including those from prestigious organizations such as:

Moreover, he’s an Emeritus member of the Cowboy Artists of America with over 42 awards from them alone.

Terpning’s works have been displayed around the world, including The Grand Palais in Paris, a special display in Beijing, Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, etc.


Howard Terpning sought something more than the awards and accolades. It was the desire to keep the history, heritage, and culture of the American Indian alive through his paintings. They are stories waiting to be told.

Howard Terpning is one of the few artists who lived to see their work sell for more than a million dollars in their lifetime. His originals command top prices at auctions.

Terpning’s “Search for the Renegades“, an oil painting from 1981, fetched 1.5 million dollars at an auction recently. Limited edition print, lithograph, and fine art editions sell as soon as they are released.

Fine Art PublishingFine Art Publishing has a vast collection of artwork from nationally-acclaimed and world-famous western art painters like Howard Terpning. Shop his vast collection of beautiful paintings in his complete catalog today!