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Couse Family Photo Collection

Identifier: Ms. Coll. 7

Scope and Content

This collection comprises approximately 11,000 photographs, the majority of which are E.I. Couse's original contact prints produced throughout his lifetime, primarily as photo studies for his paintings. The collection also includes later reprints, picture postcards, and both historic and later photographs of family, friends, animals, and landscapes some of which were not taken by Couse.

E.I. Couse produced his prints from cellulose nitrate negatives using sunlight and a contact process in his darkroom in his home studio in Taos, New Mexico where there was no electricity or running water until 1928. Couse used photography as an integral part of his artistic process and many of the original prints have gridding and light pencil sketching done by Couse as he envisioned his next painting. Many prints have handwritten notes on the verso in the hands of E.I. Couse, Virginia Walker Couse, Kibbey Whitman Couse, Virginia Couse Leavitt, and others.

The photo studies often feature Couse’s two most frequently used models, Jerry Mirabal and Ben Lujan, but also include a number of other models. Couse often posed his models with objects such as pottery, beadworks, textiles and other ethnographic materials from his personal collection, many of which remain in the Couse Foundation’s collections to this day.

The photographs also include Couse’s time studying and painting in France, trips to the Netherlands, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and time spent at his wife Virginia Walker Couse’s family ranch in Washington state with the subjects including local people, cows, sheep, and landscapes.

There are also a few series that focus on Taos, New Mexico locations, buildings, and personalities including many prominent artists and individuals of Couse’s day with one series devoted to the Taos Society of Artists and another of the Couse house’s interior and exterior throughout the years.

Finally, the collection also includes many photographs of both immediate and extended family on both sides, with an entire series devoted to E.I. Couse’s son, Kibbey Whitman Couse.

This collection retains E.I. Couse’s original intellectual organization and labels as well as Virginia Couse Leavitt’s supplemental arrangement and labeling. Please see processing notes for an explanation of the series and the accompanying abbreviations.


  • ca. 1880s-1990s

Biography / History

Eanger Irving Couse was an early 20th-century American painter known for his depictions of Native Americans. Born in Saginaw, Michigan on September 3, 1866, he developed an early interest in observing and sketching Native American people and culture living in close proximity to the Chippewa. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design in New York, and the Academie Julian in Paris. While studying in France in 1887, he met Virginia Walker and they married in 1889. In 1893, the Couses moved to the art colony of Etaples, France and in 1895 their son, Kibbey Whitman Couse, was born there.

By 1898, the Couses were spending winters in New York and traveling to France, Washington, and Connecticut in the summer. In 1902, the Couse family paid their first visit to Taos, New Mexico, at the suggestion of Ernest Blumenschein who had been visiting Taos along with his friend Bert Phillips since 1898 so that they could study and paint the American west.

Couse immediately took to the landscape and culture of Taos and the family returned there every summer so that he could paint. In 1909, they purchased a home on Kit Carson Road in Taos next door to Joseph Henry Sharp’s home and studio and returned annually until 1928 when they began to live in Taos year round.

In 1929, Couse’s wife, Virginia, passed away and their son Kibbey moved to Taos with his family to care for his father until his death in 1936. The Couse home and studio remain largely as they were upon Couse’s death and contain many of his paintings, Native American and Spanish colonial art and objects collected by the family, as well as the Couse Family Library and Archive.


43 linear feet. Prints are housed in 3-ring album protective sleeves and stored in 40 flat drop-front boxes.

Language of Materials



This collection comprises approximately 11,000 photographs, the majority of which are E.I. Couse's original contact prints produced throughout his lifetime as well as later reprints, picture postcards, and a small amount of pre- and post-1936 photographs of family members, friends, and locations in and around Taos.

Separated Material

Box 35 has been separated from this collection due to the fact that it contains no photographs, but comprises one box of original drawings and sketches by Kibbey Whitman Couse. It has been cataloged separately as Ms. Coll. 8.

Processing Information

The collection retains it original intellectual organization and description by E.I. Couse with supplemental arrangement and description by Virginia Couse Leavitt:

PI (Posed Indian, followed by identification as given by EIC on original packets)

UP (Used Photos, followed by identification given by EIC on original packets)

PK (Picked, identified as such by EIC, followed by his dates and other information)

A (Animals, followed by EIC identification of packet)

C (Commercial)

D-AZ (Documentary Arizona, followed by EIC identification of original packets)

D-CA (Documentary California)

D-CN (Documentary Connecticut)

FR (French, followed by EIC identification of original packets)

D-H (Documentary Holland, followed by EIC identification of original packets)

D-NM (Documentary New Mexico, followed by EIC identification of original packets)

D-NW (Documentary Northwest)

L (Landscape)

M (Miscellaneous)

K (Kibbey)

D (Couse-related)
Finding Aid of the Couse Family Photo Collection, ca. late 19th century to late 20th century
Edited Full Draft
Marissa Hendriks, Archivist/Collections Manager
© 2019
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Repository Details

Part of the Lunder Research Center Repository

The Lunder Research Center for the Taos Society of Artists
The Couse-Sharp Historic Site
146 Kit Carson Road
Taos NM 87571 USA