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Eanger Irving Couse (American, 1866-1936)


Also known as:  Coase, E. Irving; Couse, Eanger-Irving

Birth Place: Saginaw (Saginaw county, Michigan, United States)

One of the more accomplished figure painters of the original Taos Society of Artists, E. I. Couse was classically trained in Chicago at the Art Institute, in New York at the Art Students League, and in Paris at the Academie Julian. While in Paris, his friend and fellow student, Joseph Henry Sharp, urged him to visit the northern New Mexico town of Taos. Couse did so and began regular visits to the area, and he and his wife Virginia, eventually settled there.

Couse was the first president of the Taos Society of Artists. His work was widely seen throughout the United States thanks to his patronage by the Santa Fe Railroad who used over twenty of his paintings for the cover of its annual calendar. Couse was a studio painter who used only two models during all of his days in Taos. Although he occasionally sketched in the open air, he preferred to pose his models using his extensive collection of Native American artifacts in his studio. He frequently repeated a theme of Indians squatting before a kiva fire place or in front of a campfire, using the light of the fire to provide a moody quality to the painting. He also often pictured Southwestern Indians engaged in traditional native arts, such as pottery making or weaving. Like other artists of his time period, Couse often mixed artifacts and clothing from a variety of tribes into a single painting.

Prior to moving to Taos, Couse lived for a short time in Oregon. There he continued a boyhood interest in Native American life by painting members of the Klikitat, Yakima, and Umatilla tribes.Pride of the Camp, although not dated, is likely from that era. Unlike his later Taos paintings where he carefully controlled his model's dress and setting, these early paintings more often portray his subjects in their native costume and environment. Even at this relatively early point in his career, Couse was clearly at ease in skillfully capturing the personality and stature of his subject. While much of his later work in Taos repeatedly interpreted similar themes and subjects, these early paintings from his time in Oregon show a wide diversity of subjects. It is evident in such paintings as this, that Couse developed the style and technique he would employ in his Taos years at a relatively early point in his career. For some critics, these earlier paintings display a greater variety and freshness than his later works. While he had great success with the paintings that were produced for the Santa Fe Railroad and other patrons and enjoyed a national reputation, in paintings like Pride of the Camp, we can see the talent and sensitivity that he displayed toward his Native American subjects long before he moved to New Mexico.
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