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Describing this painting historian Virginia Couse Leavitt wrote, “Couse was well known for his tonal paintings of moonlight and firelight. One might question, however, why he chose moonlight as the setting for his painting The Butterfly.

“Couse often took his models into the countryside around Taos in order to inspire fresh subjects for his work. These trips enabled him to make studies and to observe his models in natural settings. In 1919 Ben Lujan and one of his children accompanied Couse on one of these expeditions. As they posed in the woods beside a stream, a butterfly landed on the child’s hand. This must have been a magical moment for the child, and it inspired Couse to use it as the subject of a painting. Although the actual event would have taken place in the daylight hours, Couse chose to record it in the moonlight, thus creating an ethereal effect to help the viewer experience some of the same wonder the child must have felt as he held a butterfly in his hands.”

The Butterfly was originally purchased by Joseph S. Cullinan, a Houston oilman who was the founder of a Texas company, later known as Texaco. He was a philanthropist and city leader. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has a Cullinan Hall to honor the family, funded largely by Joseph S. Cullinan’s daughter Nina, also a great patron of the arts.

The Artist
Joseph S. Cullinan, Houston, TX
Present owners, by descent

J. Suster, Chicago, IL Jan 1920

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