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    Description

    Eanger Irving Couse (American, 1866-1936)
    The Call of the Flute, 1922
    Oil on canvas
    24 x 29 inches (61.0 x 73.7 cm)
    Signed lower left: E.I.Couse

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Noonan-Kocian Art Company, St. Louis, Missouri, 1922;
    John F. Dickson, Houston, Texas, acquired from the above, 1923;
    By descent to the present owners.

    EXHIBITED:
    Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "117th Annual Exhibition," February 5-March 26, 1922, no. 419;
    Noonan-Kocian Art Company, St. Louis, Missouri, 1922.

    LITERATURE:
    Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Catalogue of the One-Hundred-and-Seventeenth Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1922, p. 58, no. 419.

    E. Irving Couse's The Call of the Flute from 1922 embodies the finest qualities of his mature work: the romantic subject of the contemplative lone Indian in nature; dramatic light, accentuated by a dusk setting and distant campfire glow; and a tonal blue-green palette creating a poetic atmosphere. Equally noteworthy, The Call of the Flute has remained in the same Houston, Texas, family since its purchase in 1923. Accompanying the painting is a photograph on whose verso Couse noted, "This painting size 24 x 29 in. entitled 'The Call of the Flute' was painted by me at Taos, New Mexico, in 1922 & is an excellent example of my work of that character."

    In 1922, Couse was at the height of his career, having fully established himself within the Taos art community. After decades of training in illustrious institutions, including the Chicago Art Institute, National Academy of Design in New York, and Académie Julian in Paris, in 1902 he first heard about Taos through his friend and fellow artist Ernest Blumenschein, who described the incomparable light and fresh subjects that the town's environs had to offer. Enticed, Couse and his wife, artist Virginia Walker, began spending their summers in Taos, all too happy to leave behind the rat race of New York. In 1910, they refurbished a Spanish monastery there into a home and studio. Five years later, the Taos Society of Artists was formed, and Couse was elected its first president. His paintings from this period readily adopted a brighter palette and indigenous subjects, particularly the Pueblo Indians, whose gentle demeanor and artistic practices reminded him of the Chippewa Indians he had drawn as a boy in Saganaw, Michigan. Couse's celebrity in Taos continued to grow well after his family permanently settled there in 1927, due in large measure to the patronage of the Santa Fe Railroad, which published over twenty of his paintings on the cover of its annual calendar.

    Couse repeated two primary themes in his Taos paintings: the Pueblo craftsman weaving, potting, or making jewelry in a domestic environment, and the Pueblo "naturalist" outdoors by a stream, either fishing, playing a flute, or meditating. In The Call of the Flute, one of the latter types, Couse depicts a favorite model, Ben Lujan, squatting on the banks of a river and softly playing his flute, the moonlight etching his idealized body against a backdrop of pine trees. In the background, the faint glow of a campfire intensifies the overall lyrical effect, while underscoring the Indian's momentary and intentional separation from community. Couse's attention to the sitter's physique and the details of his breechcloth and leggings (a costume mixture from various tribes) reflects his academic training under William-Adolphe Bouguereau at the Académie Julian. Indeed, preferring to paint in the studio rather than en plein air, Couse carefully arranged the elements of his compositions, using photography as a guide and posing his models with his collection of Native American artifacts. Although Couse often painted Pueblo Indians playing flutes, The Call of the Flute, in situating the sensitive musician within a moody, twilight setting, is one of his most evocative works.

    The painting retains its original frame, which was designed by the artist.

    We wish to thank Virginia Leavitt, granddaughter of E. I. Couse, for providing invaluable information on this lot, which will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.






    Condition Report*: Unlined canvas; there appears to be a few small areas of extremely faint craquelure; a tiny possible accretion at center left edge; tiny possible fleck of loss in lower right corner; under UV exam, there appears to be no previous restoration. Framed Dimensions 34.75 X 39.27 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    16th Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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