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Evening Fire, Painted by E. Irving Couse NA in Taos NM in the 1930s. K. W. Couse”

Historian Virginia Couse Leavitt writes, “Paintings that combine both moonlight and firelight were a favorite subject for Couse and he explored many subtle ways of making these paintings interesting.

“Because the artist’s records refer to the present painting simply as Campfire we can assume he intended that to be the focus of this picture. Pale moonlight reveals the setting, but the picture is dominated by the image of an Indian youth seated against a tree bathed in the strong yellow light of a camp fire. To emphasize the brilliance of the fire, Couse repeats a muted version of the same color in the fall foliage of trees in the background, then leads the eye back full circle to the fire by way of their reflection in the stream.

“Couse’s particular interest in painting the varied qualities of light was evident from his earliest work. While studying in France between 1886-1891, it was twilight effects from either the rising moon or setting sun that attracted him. However, after he started painting Native American subjects in Washington, firelights began to appear in his work. The strong light and colors that he later found in New Mexico eventually led to the brilliant firelight and moonlight pictures for which he became justly famous.”

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