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Label, Fenn Galleries, Santa Fe, NM
Label, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, TX

According to historian Virginia Couse Leavitt, “Couse was fond of depicting the contrasting effects of moonlight and firelight in a single canvas. He handles this with particular success in this painting of an Indian playing his flute in a moonlit aspen grove. The Indian stands beside a fire he has built in the woods, his lithe body echoing the trunks of the aspen trees behind him. The warm light from the fire envelopes the fringed leggings and beaded moccasins that clothe his lower body, while his upper body is cast in shadow against the blue moonlit forest behind him. As he plays his flute, the Indian has tipped his head back and closed his eyes. The artist has created a visual effect that palpably evokes the haunting sound of the flute drifting into the quiet evening air.

“Around 1928, Leandro Bernal of Taos Pueblo posed for a number of Couse’s major paintings and he was the model used in this painting. Song of the Blue Aspens remained in Couse’s estate after the artist’s death and was not sold until the late 1980s. In 1976 it was included in the Couse Retrospective at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. There is no record of Couse’s original title, although Song of the Blue Aspens was the title used by his son, Kibbey, in the catalogue for the 1976 Retrospective. (The alternate title of The Evening Flute was given by Nicholas Woloshuk in his 1976 book about Couse).

“Couse was primarily a figure painter, well trained in the academic tradition at the National Academy of Design in New York and then at the Académie Julian in Paris. Consistently, throughout his career, he was interested in painting the qualities of light, which in his case led to an interest in Tonalism. After arriving in New Mexico, he adapted this style of painting, which relied on a color scheme based on one predominant hue, to his brilliant firelights and moonlights. Tonalism also involved a mood of quietism, which was ideal for Couse’s interest in the spiritual qualities of Native American life. These qualities of Tonalism are well demonstrated in Song of the Blue Aspens.”

Santa Fe Village Art Museum Collection, Santa Fe, NM
Private Collection, Tucson, AZ

Green Mountain: E. I. Couse in Taos, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, TX

Nicholas Woloshuk, E. Irving Couse (Santa Fe, NM: Santa Fe Village Museum, 1976) p 71, illustrated

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