Howard Terpning (born November 5, 1927) is an American painter and illustrator best known for his paintings of Native Americans.
Terpning was born in Oak Park, Illinois. His mother was an interior decorator, and his father worked for the railroad. He grew up in the Midwest living in Iowa, Missouri and Texas as well as Illinois. As a boy he liked to draw and knew by the age of seven that he wanted to be an artist. At age 15, he became fascinated with the West and Native Americans when he spent the summer camping and fishing with a cousin near Durango, Colorado. When he turned 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1945 through 1946. He was stationed in China for nine months.
After leaving the Marines he enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in their two-year commercial art program using the G.I. Bill to pay his tuition. To further his study he attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago for six months where he honed his life drawing and painting skills.
After art school a family friend introduced Terpning to Haddon Sundblom, a successful and highly regarded illustrator of that time. Based on the recommendation and the strength of Terpning's drawings Sundblom hired Terpning to work at his Chicago studio as an apprentice for $35 per week. Initially, Terpning ran errands, cut mats, built crates and cleaned brushes. After about a year and a half he began to work on his own commissions. In 1955, he moved to a Milwaukee studio where he stayed for three years before relocating to New York where he was hired by a major Chicago studio. By 1962, he was working as a freelance artist using an agent to facilitate the business side of his craft. As a result Terpning was able to work from his home studio eliminating the long commute into NYC. During his 25 years as an illustrator he created magazine covers, story illustrations and advertising art for publications such as Reader's Digest, Time, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Field & Stream, McCall's, Redbook, and Ladies' Home Journal.
In addition to illustrating for magazines Terpning completed over 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 the 1967 re-release of Gone with the Wind..
In 1967 in the midst of his commercial art career Terpning left his home in Connecticut and headed to Vietnam as a civilian combat artist. Invited by the Marine Corps to document the war by living with the Marines for one month. After two weeks of training he wound up in Da Nang, South Vietnam with camera and sketch pad going out on patrols with combat troops. Of the experience Terpning stated he was "profoundly changed" by the experience. Upon his return home he created six paintings which are now at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.