Eanger Irving Couse: The Life and Times of an American Artist, 1866–1936, by Virginia Couse Leavitt, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2019, $59.95
Author Virginia Couse Leavitt grew up surrounded by her grandfather’s paintings, has studied his work for more than 30 years, is a founding member of the Couse Foundation and earlier wrote Eanger Irving Couse: Image Maker for America. The artist is a worthy subject for what marks Vol. 34 in the Charles M. Russell Center series on art and photography of the American West. E. Irving Couse (1866–1936) first took an interest in drawing Indians from encounters with Chippewas living near his hometown of Saginaw, Mich. He later studied art in Chicago, New York and Paris and lived in France for 10 years. On returning to the United States, he spent summers in New Mexico Territory. He completed one of his major paintings, Elk-Foot of the Taos Tribe, in the summer of 1909. In 1915 he helped found the Taos Society of Artists and served as its first president.
Beautifully illustrated, long (388 pages) but intimate, this book was clearly a labor of love for Leavitt. “Couse,” she writes, “was a familiar sight to the townspeople of Taos as he made his way down the street each afternoon to the post office, strolling with his hands clasped behind his back, a large sombrero on his head, his signature green cardigan sweater and baggy corduroy pants enveloping his rotund figure.” Couse’s work, she notes, was familiar to art connoisseurs but reached a wider audience starting in 1914 when it was first featured on Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway calendars. He gained renown for his Southwest landscapes and Indian portraits, particularly the ones depicting Pueblo Indians. His house and studio are preserved in Taos as the Eanger Irving Couse House and Studio—Joseph Henry Sharp Studios.