McCouch was a native Philadelphian. He studied in New York with the Canadian painter George Bridgeman at the Art Students League and in Zurich with an artist named Zugel. His European travels and studies gave him an affection for Continental scenes, especially wine cellars, old byways, and romantic vignettes of daily life. His American scenes were often different, with modern urban skyscrapers and streets. One critic felt that McCouch’s constructed and geometric style was indebted to the Cubists, Expressionists, and Surrealists but that the influences of Monet, Cezanne, and Vlaminck were present in his lyric sensitivity and color.
In a brief anonymous essay published in Germany, the author described McCouch as “the exponent of the Anglo-Saxon attitude toward life, or of Modern ‘Unmodern-ness’.” The essay, a strange mixture of art criticism and ethnic preconceptions, states:
McCouch’s work is of a unique overwhelming harmony The fundamental point of view, the attitude of world contemplation, from which the pictures are painted — and it is a typically Anglo-Saxon one, may be summed up as follows: The world is a huge hunting-ground full of secrets and adventures, but also full of sorrow and hardship, and the one, as well as the other, can only be conquered by the attitude we adopt toward it. Not a single picture of McCouch is blatant, all are dim, subdued, and almost timid in expression, but inwardly tense. In short, they hold the essential in them. All the characters of McCough muse on memories never to be recalled and of lost adventures.
Despite its subjectivity, the essay reflects the themes of the New York and Paris exhibition notes, that McCouch infused his hard edged paintings with a gentle, mysterious quality.
In his letter ofAugust 6, 1920 to Gertrude Brinckle of the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts, McCouch said:
My few illustrations were all done over ten years ago, and I never felt them to be of sufficient importance to warrant keeping records. As for my paintings, they are with a few exceptions destroyed. Those sold were disposed of in exhibitions, to whom, I generally had no way of knowing.
In his letter of January 1, 1947, to Richard Lykes, who was engaged in Pyle research, McCouch explained that, unsatisfied with the quality of many of his paintings, he had destroyed them. He preserved “a number
of etchings,” which entered private and public collections.