Organizations* : NA, Taos SA
Eanger Irving Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1866. At a young age, Couse drew the Chippewa Indians near his home, setting the foundation for his lifelong fascination with Native American culture. As a young man, he left Michigan in pursuit of advanced training and better opportunities, first studying at the Chicago Art Institute, then at the National Academy of Design in New York City. In 1886, Couse attended the Acadèmie Julien in Paris. In France, Couse became more directly exposed to the formal principles and disciplines of the French academies, thus favoring the ideals of classical, academic art throughout his career. After marrying fellow American art student Virginia Walker in 1889, Couse returned to America and lived at the Walker’s ranch in eastern Washington, where he painted the Indians of the Northwest. In 1898, they moved to New York, where Couse was able to work out of his studio as well as paint outdoors. However, unlike the Pacific Northwest, Couse had difficulty finding Indian models for his paintings – tribes on the East Coast were not only scattered throughout the area, but they were also superstitious and uncooperative with having their images reproduced.
In 1902, at the invitation of Joseph Henry Sharp and Ernest Blumenschein, the Couses traveled to Taos, New Mexico, where they permanently moved to in 1928. Couse became very active in the local art scene, becoming one of the six “Taos Founders” of the Taos Society of Artists in 1915, a group of legendary artists whose influence is still strongly felt in the world of western art. Couse was greatly inspired by the Indians of the Taos Pueblo, as well as the brilliant light and color of the Taos Valley. This influence is apparent in the brighter palette that Couse utilized to illustrate the rich tones and vastness of the New Mexico landscape. The scenes Couse created suggest that Native Americans were peaceful, dignified human beings and not the savages of Western lore. The quiet, introspective quality of the figures in Couses’s works express the humanity and nobility of each individual model, a few of which modeled for Couse for decades.
Couse’s paintings received tremendous national exposure and made Taos a major tourist attraction. Couse created images that were highly influential in changing the public’s perception of the West. He was a dedicated and inspired artist who incorporated classical art practices and reinterpreted the West as subject matter. His paintings are still regarded as the most expressive of his time. Couse died in 1936. His works are exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Smithsonian Institution; the Gilcrease Institute of Art; and the Museum of New Mexico, among other public and private collections.
Reference: Ask Art.com, E.I. Couse: Image Maker for America, Albuquerque Museum