Taos Pueblo - Moonlight, 1914
E. Irving Couse (1866-1936)
oil on canvas
Gift of Kibbey W. Couse, 1930.
Irving Couse’s 1914 painting Taos Pueblo - Moonlight presents his view of a mythic Pueblo past enhanced by glowing fires flickering on Native figures. Couse sought to capture the nobility of Native cultures and was not interested in ethnographic accuracy. He painted his figures from a repertoire of formal poses learned as part of his academic training as a realist painter in Paris. Couse worked from live models that he posed with Native objects from his collection of artifacts from diverse southwestern and Plains Indian cultures. His paintings frequently combine objects from unrelated tribal groups as if they were ethnographically correct.
Commercial publishers reproduced Couse’s paintings as chromolithographs and calendar illustrations. Beginning in 1914, the Santa Fe Railway reproduced Couse’s paintings on its annual calendars until the late 1930s, except during World War I. By the 1920s the public accepted his imagery as the epitome of New Mexico art.