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Eanger Irving Couse

Biography

Born in 1866 in Saginaw, Michigan, Eanger Irving Couse became familiar with Indian daily life and rituals from an early age, earning a reputation (even as a boy) as a faithful artist of the local Chippewa tribe. After raising tuition by painting houses in his home town, Couse enrolled in the Art Institute in Chicago in 1884. The following year he moved to New York, where he became a member of the National Academy of Design. By 1887 the twenty-one year old Couse was lured to Paris, the cosmopolitan art center of the western world. In Paris Couse immediately enrolled himself in the Académie Julian, which attracted numerous Americans due to its reputation for tolerance when it came to experimentation.  At Julian’s (as it was known to its American contingent), Couse was profoundly influenced by his professor William Adolphe Bouguereau, who preached a classical doctrine based on Renaissance techniques and Christian values. Bouguereau, who enjoyed an international reputation as a figure painter, was immediately attracted to Couse’s strong sense of modeling and proportion. Couse would never relinquished the principles he learned in Paris, and continued to use French academic methods including tight, pyramidal compositions and modeling throughout his career. Within a year of his arrival in Paris, Couse had one of his pictures accepted into the prestigious Salon of 1888, an honor that helped to establish his name and career as an artist. That year he also married Virginia Walker, a fellow American art student in Bouguereau’s atelier for women. Despite their new found happiness,  the Couses had to keep their marriage a secret from Bouguereau, who did not approve of his male and female students consorting (although Bouguereau himself later married Elizabeth Gardner, an American student under his instruction).  

After his return from Paris in 1890 Couse moved briefly to Oregon with his new wife, but soon returned to Normandy where he lived for ten years. In 1902 Couse made his first visit to Taos on the advice of Henry Sharp and Ernest L. Blumenschein, whom he had met in Paris. By 1906 Couse had established a residence and studio in Taos, where he painted primarily during the summers, returning to New York in the winter.  Although inspired by Taos, no doubt many of Couse’s paintings of Indian subject matter was finished in his New York Studio, in keeping with the French academic method. By this time Couse had attained widespread recognition as a professional artist, and 

In 1928 Couse moved permanently to Taos, where he devoted himself entirely to painting the traditions, culture, and daily lives of the Pueblo Indians. Couse's distinctive style and unique paintings of Indian subjects, often dramatically lit by twilight or set in the shadows of firelight, earned him an international reputation. Commissioned for many years to supply pictures for the yearly calendars of the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company calendars, his work was instantly recognizable to many.