Sunday, February 01, 2009

E. I. Couse at the Rockwell

I finally dodged the ice and snow storms to travel up to Corning, NY to the Rockwell Museum of Western Art to see the excellent showing of one of my favorite "western" painters; Eanger Irving Couse; A Place In the Sun.

Couse (1866-1936) has influenced me for quite some time. Born in Saginaw, Michigan he was classically trained at the Chicago
Art Institute, the National Academy of Design in NYC and the Academie Julien in Paris. There he studied under Adolphe Bouguereau. Three large Bouguereau canvases are part of the Rockwell exhibit, showing his influence on Couse.

Many of Couse's early sketchbook pages, photographs of his models, plein air oil sketches and figure studies in oil are included in the exhibit; most of these from the years previous to his membership in the Taos Society of Artists.

The exhibit highlights are the figurative pieces from New Mexico...mostly Native Americans, many lit by the moon or firelight. Couse's strength lies in his incredible skill at portraying the (often) crouched human figure and the way light played off of it. His paintings literally take my breath away and it was a very worthwhile afternoon viewing pieces from the Saginaw Art Museum's collection as well as from the Rockwell's permanent collection. I love his unconventional use of strong color.

Couse was a successful artist before he even got to Taos...his wife feared he had made his reputation as a painter of sheep...lovely French pastorals (four on display). His success escalated throughout his life and later.

BTW this museum has some wonderful pieces of very contemporary Native American artists work. I always love visiting to see what they have been adding. The museum building itself is quite the showpiece...all lovely old Victorian structures should be so lucky as to get a facelift like this! Couse show only through Feb. 8!

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