Tucson’s Own Howard Terpning 

Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, The Sound of Music. Do you know what these three movies have in common? …… Times up! … the art for all three of their movie posters, along with over seventy others, was done by Tucson’s own Howard Terpning.   

Original artwork for Cleopatra poster

Terpning was born in 1927 in Oak Park, Illinois. As a boy he liked to draw and knew by the age of seven that he wanted to be an artist. At fifteen, he became fascinated with the Western US and Native American history when he spent the summer camping with a cousin in Colorado. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1945 through 1946. 

Terpning’s Lawrence of Arabia poster

After leaving the Marines he enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in their 2 year commercial art program using the G.I. Bill to pay his tuition. 

The Sound of Music poster by Howard Terpning

After art school he started work at a Chicago illustration studio as an apprentice. Eventually he began to work on his own commissions. By 1962, he was working as a freelance artist. During his 25 years as an illustrator he created magazine covers, story illustrations, advertising art and 80 movie posters starting with The Guns of Navarone in 1961. Other examples include Cleopatra, Doctor Zhivago, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles and Lawrence of Arabia.

In the early 1970’s Terpning grew tired of commercial work and decided to pursue his interest in the American West and Plains Indians. Still living in the eastern US, he began to create fine art paintings, selling them in Western galleries. After a few years, he moved to Arizona to devote himself to painting the American West. 

Terpning’s art is revered for his attention to even the tiniest detail. But in capturing the details he also invokes … the mood. The history. The life force. The surrealistic beauty of that particular moment in time.  

Terpning’s paintings have sold very well at auction. At least two of them have sold for over 1 million.  But you don’t have to be a millionaire to own his work.  Fine art prints of some of his works can be found.


Some of the museums Terpning’s work can be found in are the Phoenix Art Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Institution, The Gene Autry National Center of the American West and The Gilcrease Museum.

Howard Terpning. Tucson is proud that you call her your home.

Carol Fenn 2-2017