A childhood fascination with the Chippewa Indians near his family home in Saginaw, Michigan would lead to a career as a world-renown artist for Eanger Irving (E.I.) Couse.
Early in his life Couse would sketch and paint portraits and scenes of the local Indian community. His skills and interest developed so much that at the age of sixteen he studied briefly at the Art Institute of Chicago before heading to the National Academy of Design in New York City. After two years of study there he traveled to Paris to study under William Bouguereau and Tony Robert Fluery at the Academie Julian. By this point in his career he was all ready winning notoriety and awards for his work.
When it came time for Couse to enter a painting into the Paris Salon he decided that he wanted the subject to be the American Indian. In order to find appropriate models for his work he returned to the United States, where he stayed for a year at his wife's family home in Washington State. He relied upon the local Klickitat Indians as well as his wife, Virginia, for his models. The work was accepted at the Salon of 1892.
Back in France Couse would reside near the Etaples art colony, where he painted scenes of the coast and sea, the French peasants and fishermen. By 1898 however he and his family returned to New York, where they often summered far from the heat and congestion of the city. It was in 1902 that Couse took the suggestion of his friend, Ernest Blumenschein, and visited Taos, New Mexico. He spent the next twenty five summers in Taos, before taking up permanent residency in 1927.
Couse is considered a founding member of the Taos art colony, and was one of the residents who established the Taos Society of Artists in 1915. It was here that he refined his specialty - the gentle and serene portraits of the local Pueblo Indians. Couse's natives are not the "noble savages" of common myth, but artistically idealized people living in a world of rich and brilliant colors all set in the beautiful Taos Valley region. His paintings brought a completely different understanding to the American West, and set Taos as a major tourist and artist destination. Couse died in New Mexico in 1936.
The paintings of E.I. Couse are considered some of the most expressive of the era, and during his life he exhibited widely, won many major awards including those from the Paris Salon, the National Academy of Design and the American Exposition, among many more. His work can be seen in major museums around the world.