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E. Irving Couse, 'The Captive', 1891

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E. Irving Couse, 'The Captive', 1891

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A famous and controversial painting, for its sexual implications (rather strong for the art of the period), stereotyping of Native Americans, and (conversely) "noble savage" romanticization of them. Backstory, as provided by Robfergusonjr (talk · contribs): In 1838, Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife came to the Oregon Territory to establish a mission to the Cayuse Indians under the sponsorship of the New England Mission Board. In time, immigrants also came to the area and settled around the Whitman mission. All went well until there was an epidemic of measles. The Indians were stricken by the disease and, though treated by the Whitmans, were not able to respond so well to medical treatment. Angry and terrified, they accused Dr. Whitman of deliberately poisoning them to get their land. In late November of 1847, they attacked the mission and murdered most of the staff, including Dr. Whitman and his wife. A number of others were taken captive, among them Lorinda Bewley, a seventeen-year-old teacher at the mission, who was spared from death by a Cayuse chief named Five Crows. When he saw her, he decided that he would enjoy the novelty of a white woman for a wife. Needless to say, this did not meet with a favorable response from the captured girl. Couse's painting shows us a dramatic scene – Lorinda is lying on the floor of the chief's teepee, unconscious, with bloody bonds testifying to a terrified but courageous struggle. Five Crows is seated on the floor, staring at her and unable to fathom her behavior, her aversion to him. Couse has shown us two cultures in tragic juxtaposition, and we are able perhaps to have an understanding of each.

Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936) was an American painter known for his depictions of Native American life, particularly scenes from Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. He was a prominent member of the Taos Society of Artists, a group of artists who settled in Taos, New Mexico, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were known for their depictions of the Southwest and its indigenous peoples. Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Couse studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Académie Julian in Paris. He travelled extensively in Europe before returning to the United States and settling in Taos in 1902. In his paintings, Couse sought to capture the daily life, customs and traditions of the Taos Pueblo people, often depicting them in their traditional dress engaged in activities such as hunting, cooking and ceremonies. He was particularly adept at capturing the play of light and shadow in his outdoor scenes.

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1891
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