TAOS, NM.- In 1902, painters I.E. Couse and J.H. Sharp met for the first time in Taos, New Mexico. Both from the Midwest—Couse originally from Michigan, and Sharp from Ohio—each had lived and studied in Europe, and brought with them to New Mexico the Beaux-Arts tradition of painting they had independently experienced in Paris.
By 1909, the two men had become next-door neighbors in this budding art colony of northern New Mexico—their studios on Kit Carson Road separated by a slim adobe wall—and remained important friends and colleagues for the rest of their artistic lives.(Couse died in ’36, Sharp in ’53).
From June 20 through October 18, 2009, the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, NM, in cooperation with The Couse Foundation, will present Kindred Spirits and the Adobe Connection: E.I. Couse and J.H. Sharp and The Photography of I.E. Couse. These exhibitions launch The Couse Foundation’s centennial celebrations of the year the two men became neighbors.
The exhibition features paintings by both artists, along with the original artifacts portrayed in the paintings. Sketchbooks and photographs related to the paintings and to the artists will also be on display. The viewer will have the unique opportunity to see what was involved in their creative processes, and compare the painters’ styles.
“These two men were the most dedicated academics of the Taos artists, and their paintings reflect those late-19th century European studies,” says Jina Brenneman, Harwood curator. “Both were prolific, successful painters who started painting Native American subjects in the Northwest around the turn of the century, and then settled in Taos a little later. They were among the founders of the Taos art colony, and charter members in 1915 of the Taos Society of Artists.”
Both Couse and Sharp admired the arts and crafts of Native Americans and each formed extensive Indian collections. The Couse collection still exists and portions of it can be seen at the Couse studio. However, due to issues of conservation, many items such as beadwork and other perishables are currently in storage.
“This exhibition provides an opportunity for the public to see items from the Couse Family Collections and Archive not normally on view,” Brenneman continues. “Sharp’s collection no longer exists in one place since during his lifetime much of it was sold to the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, and the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. The remainder was dispersed after his death and ended up in private collections.”
Noted authority and writer on Sharp, Marie Watkins, Assistant Professor of Art History at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, who will present a lecture on October 16, sums it up this way. “For the past hundred years, museums and collectors have esteemed the works of Irving Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp. Underlying the style of their painting is the influence of Paris from their student days. The Beaux-Arts tradition never left these Taos artists. Paris determined how Couse and Sharp painted. In turn, these artists, along with their Taos colleagues, transformed American art. What they learned in Paris didn’t stay in Paris, but unfolded into a rich and diverse Taos panorama.”