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On December 22, 1923, The Art News announced that Grand Central Art Galleries in New York had just sold Couse’s painting, Night Birds, to a Dallas, Texas, collector. The caption beneath the illustration stated that ‘This picture is considered by artists and critics one of the finest examples of Mr. Couse’s idealistic pictures of Indian life. It is most charming in color, and its appeal to the imagination, together with its poetic quality, makes it a most desirable acquisition for (the buyer’s) growing collection.’

Painted in the summer of 1923, Night Birds is a classic Couse moonlight, a genre for which he was well known by that time. His interest in painting light, whether it be twilight, moonlight, firelight, or brilliant daylight, is evident throughout his career. His depictions of moonlight, however, are particularly diverse, ranging from the pale light of a full moon to the deep tones and shadows of a dark night. The various qualities of moonlight were necessarily painted from memory, the result of years of careful observation.

The tonal palette of Night Birds relies on a dominance of blue-green, which is enriched with subtle complimentary hues that bring life and warmth to the figures. An Indian hunter draws his bow to aim down river at some large birds, specks of white fast disappearing into the deep green darkness. The Indian’s young son sits motionless on a boulder at his feet, his body tense in anticipation. Silvery moonlight bounces off their backs and off the rock formations in the foreground, contrasting vividly with the deep blue-green shadows of night along the river. Couse has created an atmosphere of absolute quiet and breathless expectation that depicts a present moment in time, a moment in which the future and the past are only imagined.

Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1866. Following his art studies, first in New York and then in Paris in the late 1880s, Couse eventually established a home in Taos, New Mexico, where he could fulfill his ambition to paint Native Americans. His favorite model from Taos Pueblo, Ben Lujan, is seen in Night Birds, along with Ben’s son, Eliseo. The painting is in its original frame, designed by Couse and made by L. Vigdor, one of his New York frame makers.

– Virginia Couse Leavitt
Autor and noted authority on Eanger Irving Couse

VERSO (under reline):
Che-wa-a-sla (Benito) | Chit-o-e-a-le. his son | Sold to | S.A. Temple | “Night Birds” | by | E - Irving Couse N.A.

PROVENANCE:
The Artist
[Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, NY 1923]
S. A. Temple, Dallas, TX 1923
Present owner, by descent

LITERATURE:
The Art News, Vol. XXII, No. 11 (New York, New York: December 22, 1923), front page, illustrated

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