Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
45.72 cm x 72.39 cm | 22 1/8 in x 32 in
Framed: 29 1/2 in x 39 ½ in x 2 ½ in.
Signed and dated lower right T.C. Steele / 1904
Previously in the Indianapolis Museum of Art Collection, bequest of Helen Marie Willeford, given to museum by her estate in 2001
Transferred to Christie’s New York; sold at the Living with Art Sale December 12, 2017 (lot 342)
Former accession number: 2001.15, Deaccessioned on 05.17.2017¹
Now resides in private collection
Painting in the Whitewater River Valley became an important period in the review of T.C. Steele’s body of work. In 1896, Steele and fellow Hoosier Group artist J. Ottis Adams began annual summer visits to the Whitewater Valley in Franklin County, Indiana seeking opportunities to paint. They first lived in Metamora and then at Brookville.
Steele’s passion for painting scenes in this region was evident in his work. He created some of his best paintings, and gradually changed his technique for plein air painting. Instead of carefully making sketches on paper to work out compositions before applying paint to canvas, he began by drawing a loose sketch directly on the canvas, using thinned paint. This saved valuable time to accommodate constantly changing light.²
Also in 1896, T.C. Steele built a studio wagon so he could pack his painting supplies and travel around the countryside painting landscapes. The wagon was large enough to accommodate the entire family.
“It was like a gypsy wagon, with seats along the side with big windows thought which Steele could paint. Libbie was pleased with it because it had a “high-backed softly cushioned seat” where she could “ride in comfort and state.” I really think, she wrote Brandt, “that the studio on wheels is going to be a great success for it will enable pap to paint out of doors effects in all kinds of weather, and he can easily have a little stove in it for winter and all sorts of accommodations and comforts”.³
Both Steele and Adams were convinced that they would never run out of painting subjects in the Whitewater Valley, and in 1898, Steele and Adams acquired a house in Brookville, they called the Hermitage on the outskirts of Brookville on the east fork of the Whitewater. The home was named the “Hermitage” by Libbie. This summer home was used by both families for several years, from 1898 to 1907. Steele sold his interest to Adams in 1907, following the death of his first wife, Libbie.
¹Indianapolis Musuem of Art, Newsfields, http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/56321/
²Excepted from Indiana Impressions: The Art of T.C. Steele, Rachel Berenson Perry https://tcsteele.org/indiana-impressions/
³The House of the Singing Winds, Steele, Selma N, Steele, Theodore, L, Peat, Wilbur D., Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1966, page 45.
⁴The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) Friday, October 30, 1896, page 7.