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"Indian Potter" by Eanger Irving Couse

Indian Potter, c. 1914
Eanger Irving Couse (American, 1866-1936)
Oil on canvas; 29 1/2 x 33 1/2 in.
Gift of Martha C. Stevens Memorial Art Collection
E.I. Couse was born Eanger Irving Couse on September 3, 1866 in Saginaw, Michigan.  At an early age Couse was exposed to the Chippewa people, a Native American tribe living close to his home in Saginaw. From that time on he had a fascination that would grow into a life long passion.  Couse was a classically trained artist and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, National Academy of Design in New York City, and at the Académie Julian in Paris, France. While in Paris he had the desire to paint a grande historical painting for the 1892 Paris Salon show. The Captive, loosely based on the Whitman Massacre, was his first work depicting his now famous oeuvre. The painting title, Indian Potter, is a fine example of the passion he felt for the vanishing “West” which many felt was due to the U.S. policy of Manifest Destiny. The painting depicts Ben Lujan (his birth name was Walsai meaning “of the red-willow people”), a young man from the Taos Pueblo who was adopted at the age of four months old by Couse.  Ben, in the role of a potter carefully examining his work, connects the important of pottery to Pueblo life and its people.  Pottery making and pottery decorating is generally viewed as principally in the woman’s domain, but there has been documentation that some potters and pottery decorators have been men. The delicate elegant sensitivity and dignified air that is evident in his mature works is beautifully depicted in Indian Potter. E.I. Couse is best known for his idyllic and serene paintings of Native American life and has created some 1,500 paintings, some in collections owned by the Smithsonian Art Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago and at the Bowers Museum. Couse first came to New Mexico on the urging of his friend and fellow artist, Ernest Blumenschein to visit the now World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark, Taos Pueblo. Along with Blumenschein and like-minded artists, Couse was captivated by the spectacular light and landscape of New Mexico.  He would return every year with his family to paint and in 1928 settled there permanently.  He was an active member of the Taos Art Colony, founded in 1915, and was its first president.  Like many of his fellow artists, there was a sense of urgency to document on canvas the “vanishing” culture of the Pueblo people of Northern New Mexico that may have spurred Couse to pursue this chosen painting genre.

All text and images under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. Information subject to change upon further research.
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