Eanger Irving Couse (1866–1936) showed remarkable promise as a young art student. His lifelong interest in Native American cultures also started at an early age, inspired by encounters with Chippewa Indians living near his hometown, Saginaw, Michigan. After studying in Europe, Couse began spending summers in New Mexico, where in 1915 he helped found the famous Taos Society of Artists, serving as its first president and playing a major role in its success. This richly illustrated volume, featuring full-color reproductions of his artwork, is the first scholarly exploration of Couse’s noteworthy life and artistic achievements.
Drawing on extensive research, Virginia Couse Leavitt gives an intimate account of Couse’s experiences, including his early struggles as an art student in the United States and abroad, his study of Native Americans, his winter home and studio in New York City, and his life in New Mexico after he relocated to Taos. In examining Couse’s role as one of the original six founders of the Taos Society of Artists, the author provides new information about the art colony’s early meetings, original members, and first exhibitions.
As a scholar of art history, Leavitt has spent decades researching her subject, who also happens to be her grandfather. Her unique access to the Couse family archives has allowed her to mine correspondence, photographs, sketchbooks, and memorabilia, all of which add fresh insight into the American art scene in the early 1900s. Of particular interest is the correspondence of Couse’s wife, Virginia Walker, an art student in Paris when the couple first met. Her letters home to her family in Washington State offer a vivid picture of her husband’s student life in Paris, where Couse studied under the famous painter William Bouguereau at the Académie Julian.
Whereas many artists of the early twentieth century pursued a radically modern style, Couse held true to his formal academic training throughout his career. He gained renown for his paintings of southwestern landscapes and his respectful portraits of Native peoples. Through his depictions of the domestic and spiritual lives of Pueblo Indians, Couse helped mitigate the prejudices toward Native Americans that persisted during this era.
“Eanger Irving Couse: The Life and Times of an American Artist, 1866–1936, took thirty-four years to complete. It was worth the effort. It offers a consistent evaluation of Couse’s work and is beautifully illustrated. Couse would be immensely proud of the reverence with which Virginia Couse Leavitt has presented not only his life, but also her revealing insights into the important places, personalities, and projects that shaped him.”— Southwestern Historical Quarterly