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Historian Virginia Couse Leavitt writes, “Couse’s account book documents the sale of this painting titled Camp in the Aspens to John J. Mitchell in 1930. Although from Chicago, Mitchell had the painting shipped to ‘Rancho Juan y Lolita,’ his second home near Santa Barbara, California. Couse was well known for his firelight and moonlight paintings featuring Native American subjects, and this painting would have been an appropriate addition to the Mitchells’ California ranch.

“On a number of occasions Couse challenged himself to combine the qualities of both firelight and moonlight in the same painting. In the case of Camp in the Aspens, an Indian basks in the strong yellow glow of his campfire, a circle of light completely surrounded by the deep blue-green tones of moonlight. Tree trunks in the background appear as gleaming columns of reflected moonlight. A horse waits patiently in the gloaming behind its master, its horizontal form creating a link between the two light sources.

“Painting moonlight presents a particular challenge. The effects have to be internalized from careful observation and painted from memory. Couse enjoyed the challenge of finding new ways to depict these tonal effects and he became a master at successfully combining both a warm and a cool palette in a single painting.”

The John J. “Jack” Mitchell Collection 1930
Present owners, by descent

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