1866 (Saginaw, Michigan)
1936 (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
New Mexico/New York/Michigan / France/Mexico
Often Known For
Indian figure and genre painting, illustration
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Categories of Interest
Painters of Grand Canyon
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900
Taos Pre 1940
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Eanger Couse is primarily known for paintings of Taos Pueblo Indian males sitting or squatting by camp fire light, suggesting that Indians were peaceful, dignified human beings and not the savages of Western lore.|
Growing up in Saginaw, he lived among the Chippewa Indians and as a youngster did sketches of these native people. From a poor family, he was a determined artist who studied for three months at the Art Institute of Chicago, having earned just enough money by painting houses, and then he returned to Saginaw to earn more money so he could go to New York City which he did in 1885. He enrolled in the National Academy of Design and did many odd jobs to support himself, and after two years returned to Saginaw, again to earn money.
In 1887, he went to Paris to the Academie Julian where his great influence became the superb draftsmanship and classical techniques of William Adolphe Bouguereau. Couse returned to Paris many times, and on one of these trips met his future wife, Virginia Walker, an art student whose family had a ranch in Oregon.
When he and his wife visited her parents on a sheep ranch in Oregon, he painted the Yakima, Umatilla, and Klikitat Indians in the pastel colors of the French Barbizon School. However, there was little interest in Indian subject matter for fine art in America. He also painted pastoral scenes, which were more popular than his Indian subjects.
Couse went back to France and settled in a rural town in the province of Pas de Calais on the English Channel and painted bucolic genre scenes, invariably with sheep on hillsides. Although he had stylistic influences from Europe, he became more and more determined to create an art that was uniquely American and was increasingly fascinated with Indians as subject matter.
In 1902, Couse visited Taos, New Mexico for the first time, having heard about it in Paris from his friend, Joseph Henry Sharp. In Pueblo Indians, Couse found the subject matter that seemed right for him, but he had difficulty finding ones to pose because of their belief that the soul of the sitter passes into the picture once it is completed.
In 1912, when the Taos Society of Artists was formed, he was elected its first president, and in 1927, he and his family moved there permanently. His wife died two years later, much affecting his spirit and the vitality of his paintings.
Although he posed models for sketching outdoors, he continued to paint in his comfortable studio in a French academic manner. He also painted occasionally in Arizona, going first in 1903, to the Hopi ceremonies at Walpi.
His models for most of his New Mexico Indian figure painting were Ben Lujan and Geronimo Gomez, Taos Pueblo residents. The tone is poetic and peaceful and reflects a civilization that is at peace with itself. Usually the squatting Indian figures were engaged in domestic activity such as preparing food, and their handsome physiques were accentuated by moonlight.
Beginning 1914, his paintings were used on calendars by the Santa Fe Railway and became the basis for the company's comprehensive Southwest art collection. The first calendar painting was "Wal-si-el, Good Medicine", which initiated the tradition of using Taos painters on the calendars, and twenty-three of them had work by Couse.
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peggy and Harold Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following biographical information is from J. Patterson:|
In 1884, at the age of 18, Couse was able to spend three months at the Chicago Art Institute before his money ran out. Undaunted, he returned home for a season
of house painting. For the next two years, 1885-1887, Couse was a student
at the National Academy of Design in New York. Each year he won awards
at the Academy's student exhibitions.
In 1887, Couse went to
Paris, where he studied under Adolphe Bouguereau and Robert Fleury at
the Academie Julian. For four years he won awards at that Academy, which
confirmed his skill and taste.
In 1891, while in Paris, he
married fellow art student Virginia Walker, a rancher's daughter from
Washington state near the Oregon border. The entire Couse family, including
son Kibbey who was born in 1894 in Etaples, a coastal village, lived in
France for several years.
Within Couse's work is a group of French
landscapes similar to his northwest American pieces: direct, broadly
painted scenes of coastal fishing and pastorals of shepherds. These
also were painted in low-key pastel colors. A pale moon can be found in
several of these paintings.
For a few years Couse earned his living from portraits, but he was a shrewd businessman,
and he understood the need to market his work from a New York base. By
maintaining a studio in the city and always being present during the
winter exhibition season, he created the network of contacts artists
must have in order to sell their work.
|Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:|
|E. I. Couse was, perhaps, the most famous of the members of the Taos Society of Artists during the period of active production from the group. A highly specialized artist with a rigorous academic background, Couse painted serious figurative scenes of the Indians of Taos Pueblo, usually crouching and often fire-lit.|
Born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1866, Couse studied briefly at the Chicago Art Institute, spending hard-earned house painting money on his courses. After three months, (the most he could afford) Couse returned to Saginaw to earn enough money to enroll in the National Academy of Design in New York City. He received an award from the Academy in every one of the three years he studied there and, in 1887, spurred on by his success at student exhibitions, he enrolled in the Academie Julien in Paris.
In Paris, Couse studied under Adolphe Bouguereau and Robert Fleury, and the work he produced garnered awards in every student exhibition he entered. It was in Paris that Couse first connected with two individuals who would be central to his life and development; the first was his future wife, Virginia Walker, and the second his mentor and the man who first brought Taos to his attention, Joseph Henry Sharp. Sharp was the central figure in organizing the Taos Society of Artists. It was from Sharp that Couse, Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Geer Phillips first learned about Taos, and he is widely considered the spiritual leader of the Taos Founders.
After studying at L'Ecole Des Beaux Arts, Couse continued to live and work in France, painting French countryside scenes that proved eminently saleable in Europe and the United States. He and Virginia had their first son, Kibbey, in the coastal village of Etaples in 1894. Couse also began painting portraits, which married his established academic style to the study and documentation of the human form. He kept a studio in New York that he occupied only during the winter exhibition season, and successfully sold a great number of paintings.
In 1897, the Couse family moved to Oregon, just south of Virginia's childhood home, onto a ranch owned by her family. Couse built a studio and painted the Klikitat Indians of the area. Four years later, he moved to New York City permanently, drawing upon his sketches and paintings of the Northwest Indians to create Native American-themed works that proved quite popular with New York buyers. After the exhibition season, without any pressing engagements, Couse allowed himself to be persuaded to travel to Taos to visit Phillips and Blumenschein. He rented a house next door to Phillips' studio and began painted the people of the Taos Pueblo. He would spend every summer between 1902 and 1926 there, eventually establishing permanent residence there in 1927.
Couse used the same two individuals, Ben Lujan and Geronimo Gomez, as the subjects for the majority of his paintings. Though the lines and colors of Couse's work are quite smooth, it is possible to see Lujan and Gomez age over time. Usually they are kneeling or squatting, engaged in a quotidian task such as preparing food or crafts, and are often lit by firelight. In the daylight scenes, Couse used a soothing palette and a softness of tone and detail to create peaceful scenes of the natives' relationship with nature. Though Couse's pieces are less ethnographically accurate than some of his contemporaries, his handling of his subjects is enormously generous and unforced, with a relaxed quality that impresses in its ability to convey concentration or rest with very little facial or muscular detail.
In 1914, Couse painted his first piece for the Santa Fe Railway. Over the rest of his life, he would paint twenty-two canvases for the railway, usually included in their yearly calendar. Only two of the pieces were commissioned; the rest were chosen by the railway out of Couse's stock of existing work.
E. I. Couse died in 1936 a successful and famous painter, whose gift to western art was significant and who is still recognized today as a major figure in the development of a significant school of American peinture.
|Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:|
|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. While in New York, he proved to be a gifted artist, winning numerous prizes, and by 1886 had entered the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, where he learned much about figure painting, including the habit of posing a model in a crouched or kneeling position close to the picture plane. |
In 1891, Couse returned to America and traveled to Oregon, where he painted his first Indian portraits of the Klikitat tribe. He then returned to France for several years, but in 1897, came back again to Oregon, built a studio, and concentrated on his Indian paintings. In 1902, he moved to New York and attracted critical praise. The following summer, at the urging of his friend Joseph Sharp, he traveled to New Mexico and rented a house in Taos next door to the studio of Bert Phillips. He spent every summer painting in Taos until 1927, when he finally established a permanent residence there.
E. Irving Couse produced a great many paintings of the Pueblo Indians, but he was less interested in historical or ethnographical accuracy than in the portrayal of figures from an artistic standpoint. He was probably the Taos Society member with the highest reputation in his lifetime
There is little doubt that Couse cultivated the popularity that came to him through is painting. He clearly wanted to continue to paint the subject that had brought him fame, so he adopted a formula for his Indian painting. Couse was greatly inspired by the Indians of the Taos Pueblo, as well as the brilliant light and colors 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 idealized arrangements of the figures in their forest or pueblo settings become almost interchangeable when viewed together as a whole.
His Taos Indians inhabit a picturesque world created by the artist; they no longer seem to be noble savages, but noble ornaments. 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 Couse’s works expresses the humanity and nobility of each individual model, a few of which modeled for Couse for decades.
Yet, Couse’s power as a painter occasionally transcended the limitations of his subject. The paint strokes he used to characterize a body or figure are rich and confident, setting up a rhythmic flow, which moves throughout the work. A typical color scheme of the artist’s encompasses a desire to give richness and subdued vibrancy to his settings; earth tones are intermingled with stronger shades of orange-red, slate green, and deep blue so as to enliven the surface without altering the overall stillness of the subject. The generally coarse canvas, thinly painted in the background, helps add a greater sense of depth to the scene.
Couse’s paintings received tremendous national exposure and made Taos a major tourist attraction. Couse created images that were very 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.
Resources: The American West: Legendary Artists of the Frontier, Dr. Rick Stewart,Hawthorne Publishing Company, 1986
|Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:|
|Eanger Irving Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan, on September 3, 1866. He began to draw as a child, often sketching the Chippewa Indians of his hometown. He liked to listen to the stories told about the Indians, an interest which heralded his later paintings.|
Couse studied at the Chicago Art Institute, and later in Paris, in 1884, at the Julien Academy, and the School of Beaux Arts. He became the favorite pupil of William Bouguereau and won numerous awards as a student.
In 1889, he married Virginia Walker, an American art student he met in Paris. In 1890, they returned to America and lived at her family’s ranch in Oregon and in New York. Couse made many paintings of the Northwest Indians during his years in Oregon.
In 1901, at the invitation of Joseph Henry Sharp, Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips, the Couses traveled to Taos and immediately fell in love with the Southwest. Each year after that, they would summer in Taos and return to New York, where he would finish the paintings he started in Taos.
In 1903, Couse went to Arizona, where he produced his rare paintings of the Hopi Indians. By 1928, the Couses had decided to permanently live in Taos. Couse became very active in the local art scene, becoming one of the six "Taos Founders" of the Taos Society of Artists, a group of legendary artists whose influence is still strongly felt in the art world today.
Some of Couse’s most important commissions came from the Santa Fe Railway. Only two of the twenty-two subjects reproduced on the Santa Fe Railway calendars were specifically commissioned by the Railway to coordinate with their advertising campaign and both were paintings of a Chief - this full figure painting and the 1934 bust of a Chief.
Couse had already started on a painting called The Blanket when C.J. Black, the passenger traffic manager and senior member of the calendar committee, suggested that the 1928 calendar feature an Indian Chief to coordinate with the introduction of a new extra-fare train named "The Chief". "The Chief in his war bonnet has ascended an eminence to watch the approaching train from the east - placing his was shield at his feet he gives the sign of welcome in the sign language by placing his right hand over his heart"
His works are held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, the Detroit Institute of Art, the Milwaukee Art Center, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Philbrook Art Center, the Gilcrease Institute of Art, and the Museum of New Mexico, among numerous other collections both public and private.
® E. Irving Couse: 1866-1936 by Nicholas Woloshuk (Santa Fe Village Art Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1976) page 90, color reproduction.
® E. Irving Couse: Image Maker for America edited by Virginia Couse Leavitt & Ellen Landis (Albuquerque Museum of Art, 1991) page 221, color reproduction.
® Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, 1928 Calendar, color reproduction.
® A Vision Of The Past
59 x 59 inches
Oil on canvas
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
® The New Rug, a.k.a./The Indian Blanket Seller
46 x 34 _ inches
Oil on canvas
Private collection, Jackson, Wyoming
® The Sun Worshippers
60 x 60 inches
Oil on canvas
Anschutz Collection, Denver, Colorado
® The Wedding
70 x 36 _ inches
Oil on canvas
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian & Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana
|Biography from Heritage Auctions:|
|Born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1866, Eanger Couse is known for his depictions of the Taos Pueblo Indians, particularly the male hunter warriors squatting by a campfire and engaging in domestic activities such as preparing food—conveying their people as peaceful, dignified human beings and not the savages of Western lore.|
Growing up in Saginaw, Couse lived among the Chippewa Indians and paid regular visits to the local settlements to sketch the tepees and do figure studies of the native people. From a poor family, Couse was a tenacious young artist, painting houses to earn just enough money for three months of tuition at the Art Institute of Chicago. When he returned to Saginaw, he sought out various odd jobs until he could save up enough to move to New York, which he did in 1885. Once in the city, he enrolled at the National Academy of Design and fervently continued to find the means to support himself until again, his financial predicament forced him to move home.
Finally, in 1887, Couse was able to travel to Paris and spend the next four years studying at the Academie Julian, where he blossomed under the mentorship of William Adolphe Bouguereau, whose superb draftsmanship and classical technique resonated in Couse's work for the rest of his career. During one of Couse’s later trips to Paris, he fell in love with and married a fellow student, Virginia Walker, whose family lived on a ranch in Washington near the Oregon border.
In 1891, the couple settled down in the Northwest, resuming Couse’s relationship with to the local Klikitat, Yakima and Umatilla tribes; but this time he painted them in the pastel colors characteristic of the French Barbizon School. Despite his own captivation, there was little interest in Indian subject matter in the art world in America, so he also painted pastoral scenes of his rural surroundings.
Couse eventually went back to France and settled in the bucolic province of Pas de Calais on the English Channel, where he continued to paint agrarian scenes with sheep on hillsides. Although he had stylistic influences from Europe, he became more and more determined to develop a technique that was uniquely American, which reignited his fascination with the Native American people.
After hearing fellow landscape artists Joseph Henry Sharp, Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips laud over the beauty of New Mexico's vista and native people, Couse left Paris to visit Taos for the first time in 1902. Despite his best attempts to immerse himself in their culture without being intrusive, the Indian population who lived in the relatively undisturbed Pueblo communities was hesitant to oblige him because of their belief that the soul of the sitter would pass into the picture once it was complete. Nevertheless, he proved himself to be a committed member of society, establishing close friendships within the local Indian tribes and earning the trust of many who eventually became his longtime willing models.
In 1912, he was elected the first president of the newly founded Taos Society of Artists and in 1927, he and his family moved there permanently. Sadly, his wife passed away two years later, which had a great impact on his vitality that was evident in his works to follow. Nevertheless, his paintings maintained a poetic and peaceful tone that reflected the civilization that maintained harmony within itself.
|Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries:|
|EANGER IRVING COUSE (1866-1936)|
Eanger Irving Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan. His lifelong pursuit of painting Native Americans was kindled by the beauty and tranquility of the local Chippewa and Ojibwa cultures. Couse chose a career in art at an early age, studying at the Chicago Art Institute, the National Academy of Design in New York, and, as was the dream of many young artists of the time, at the Académie Julian in Paris. The training he received in Europe, particularly under Adolphe Bouguereau and Robert Fleury, influenced the measured studio style he practiced for the rest of his life.
In Paris, Couse married a fellow artist whose family ranch in Washington State provided him with access to a number of Indian tribes. Lyrical portraits of the Klikitat, Yakima, and Umatilla, painted in the Barbizon style, were his first attempts at truly American subjects. His historical narratives of the West brought him great acclaim at the Paris Salon exhibitions.
Finding French peasant scenes and European landscapes more saleable, Couse returned to a successful career in France. However, upon the advice of fellow artists Joseph Henry Sharp and Ernest Blumenschein, Couse made his first visit to Taos in 1902. Though Couse maintained a studio in Manhattan during the winter months until 1928, Taos was his inspiration and became his permanent home.
Couse was elected to full membership in the National Academy of Design in 1911. His paintings are represented in numerous museums and private collections including the Detroit Institute of Art, the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. His paintings received tremendous national exposure and made Taos a major attraction. Couse created images that were highly influential in changing the public's perception of the West. He was a dedicated and prolific artist, and his paintings are still regarded as the most poetic renderings of a vanished time.
|Biography from The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction:|
|E.I. Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan and began his art career by sketching the Chippewa Indians who lived around his home town. Indians remained his favorite subject matter throughout his long and successful career. He painted houses and barns to earn enough money for art school and, at the age of eighteen, he attended the Chicago Art Institute and later, The National Academy of Design in New York. |
In 1887 he went to Paris to study at the Academie Julian under Robert Fleury and Adolphe Bouguereau. It was Bouguereau who was largely responsible for his superb draftsmanship and classical technique. Couse returned to Paris many times in subsequent years and on one of those visits married Virginia Walker, a fellow student at the Academie.
When they returned to America, they went to the Walker ranch in northeastern Oregon where Couse painted the Klikitat, Yakima, and Umatilla Indians. Since there was little market for Indian portraits at that time, they returned to France and settled on the English Channel. There Couse devoted his talents to the more marketable pastoral scenes. His son Kibby, who was born in France, recalled that the family referred to this as his father's "sheep period".
Couse visited Taos for the first time in 1902, having heard of its artistic potential from Joseph Sharp. In Taos he found the perfect subject matter; his paintings began to take on more color and new authority. In 1912, when the Taos Society of Artists was formed, he was elected president, and in 1927, the family established a year-round home there. His wife died two years later and though he continued to paint, he never fully recovered.
Couse won award after award and was a member of innumerable art and social societies. His poetic interpretation of the Taos Indian with clay pottery in the firelight, or the tall white trunk of the aspen tree as a background for the glowing flesh of the Indian became familiar to thousands.
|Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Carmel:|
|E.I. Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan, where he first started drawing the Chippewa Indians who lived nearby. Couse worked hard to pay for his art education, occasionally dropping out to earn money while attending the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Academy of Design. |
In 1897 Couse left for Paris to study at the Academie Julian, where he met an American artist, Joseph Henry Sharp, who often spoke of Taos. Couse would become a frequent visitor and resident of Taos from 1902 on. In 1912 when the Taos Society of Artists was formed, Couse was elected its first President.
Couse is best known for his intimate images of Native Americans in moments of spiritual ceremony and quiet repose.
|Biography from Adobe Gallery:|
|Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936) was born
in Saginaw, Michigan, and died in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of
the original six charter members of the Taos Society of Artists, he
first visited Taos in June of 1902 on the recommendation of
In 1928, E. A. Couse gave up his New York City studio and settled
permanently in Taos. E. A. Couse became an important painter, bringing
recognition to the Taos community and its Indian heritage.
His compositions gave a true picture of some phases of Indian life.
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