Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
64.77 cm x 94.61 cm | 25.5 in x 37.25 in
Framed: 93.98 cm x 123.19 cm x 10.79 | 37 in x 48.5 in x 4.25 in
Signed and dated, lower right, T.C. Steele / 1885
With permission, Indianapolis Museum of Art / Newfields, Gift of Frank Churchman
Accession Number: 66.241
In the painting Late Afternoon, Dachau Moor, T.C. Steele captures the reflection of light on the saturated landscape between the German villages of Schleissheim and Dachau. In the distance, two peasant women gather reeds, breaking the solitude of the vast picturesque swampland. The painting is dated 1885, which would be the year Steele began his study at the Royal Academy of painting in Munich. The artist would have been 38 years old at the time.
Steele and his family relocated to the suburb of Schleissheim after one year of residence in Munich. Steele, his neighbor artist J. Frank Currier, and William Forsyth were faithful sketching companions for Steele on his excursion around Dachau.
The Royal Academy in Munich omitted landscape painting from their curriculum, but Steele and his classmates created their own program of study, and it appears the influence of the Academy on the students is present in the picture’s oily browns and in the overall finish of this composition.
T.C. Steele studied at the Royal Academy of Painting in Munich from the fall of 1880 until his return in to Indianapolis 1885;
“The passenger manifest of the S.S. Belgenland sailing out of New York for Antwerp on July 24, 1880, included ten residents from the state of Indiana. They were bound for Munich and the stuy of art at the famed Koniglichen Akademie der Bildenden Kunste. Theodore Clement Steele (1851 – 1927), and John Ottis Adams (1851 – 1927), and Samuel Richards (1853 – 93) were not headed for carefree wanderjahre in Europe. They were practicing artist who had raised their own funds and committed their future work in order to study at the Royal Academy. They were accompanied by their families: Steele’s wife Mary Elizabeth (“Libbie”), his three children, and Richard’s wife Louise. . .[T]he group was joined in Munich in January 1882, by William Forsyth (1854 – 1935). Never before had artists gone directly from Indiana to study abroad.”¹
After sailing two weeks, the group arrive in Antwerp. “They disembarked in what Libbie Steele called “that land of Art, the Mecca of our dreams”.² The trip to Munich took nine days by steam down the Rhine to Cologne and then by rail train to their destination. “They found lodgings in the city, presented their portfolios to the professors, and prepared to enter the drawing classes when the Academy’s year began on October 16.”¹
Upon his return with his family, he rented the Tinker mansion and lived there until The Art Association purchased the property on April 9, 1901, requiring Steele and his family to relocate to 420 E. St. Clair Street in downtown Indianapolis.
¹The Passage – Return of Indiana Painters from Germany: 1880-1905, Martin F. Krause, curator of Prints and Drawings (retired) at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Germany in cooperation with Indiana University Press, 1990, pp. 14, 17
²Mary Elizabeth Steele, Impressions (Indianapolis: The Portfolio Club. 1893), n.p.