Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
45.72 cm x 71.12 cm | 18 in x 28 in
Framed: 70.80 cm x 80.64 | 27 7/8 in x 31 3/4 in
Signed and dated in black paint, lower right T.C. Steele / 1899
With permission, Indianapolis Museum of Art / Newfields
Gift of Marjorie Tongret Ostermeier in memory of L. Bland Tongret
Accession Number: 2017.139
From the artist to Lovell Bland Tongret, Indianapolis, Indiana [1890 – 1941] in 1941; by descent to his daughter, Marjorie Tongret Ostermeier, Wheaton, Illinois in 1978; given to Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in 2017.
T.C. Steele spent the summer of 1899 in Tennessee painting, accompanied by his wife Libbie and daughter Daisy. Steele hoped the cool, clear mountain air would help his wife Libbie’s health, who had recently been diagnosed with tuberculosis. They returned to their Tinker Place home in Indianapolis in early September.
The Tennessee landscape and mountains offered new material and new effects for Steele. These include Tennessee Appalachians (1899), Tennessee Mountain Land (1899), Tennessee Scene (1899), Cumberland Mountains (1899), and Roan Mountain (1899).
The Steele’s first located to the town of Roan Mountain, in the Appalachians on the Tennessee-North Carolina border, but were dissatisfied with the town and quickly moved to Lost Cove, a narrow valley where they rented a cottage. Above them, rose Roan Mountain and its impressive summit. The Steele’s remained in Lost Cove for three weeks; Libbie had been bedridden since their arrival in Tennessee.1
While in the Tennessee Mountains Libbie wrote to her sons Rembrandt (Brandt) Brandt and Shirley (Ted);
“The morning study is a village street all overgrown with grass. [Theo] has a delicious quality in his greens. I like especially the left side of the picture where some dark old buildings come against a distant mountain. The atmospheric effect is awfully nice.”1
With the completion of Cumberland Mountains, the Steele party relocated to the more pleasant surroundings of the Tappan resort, six miles into the mountains.2
Returning to Indianapolis around September 9, Libbie died on November 14 at Tinker house at the age of forty-nine. She is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
1Libbie Steele to Brandt and Shirley Steele, August 3, 1899, Steele Papers.
2Krause, Martin. The Passage: Return of Indiana Painters from Germany, 1880-1905, 186–88. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Museum of Art, 1990.