Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
48.89 cm x 81.91 cm | 19.25 in x 32.25 in
Framed: 72.39 cm x 105.15 cm |28.5 in x 41.4 in
Signed, inscribed, and dated, lower left: T.C. Steele / Indianapolis 1885
With permission, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of Carl B. Shafer
Accession Number: 58.30.1
Steele painted Pleasant Run within months of his return to Indianapolis, Indiana from Munich, Germany in 1885. The influence from his studies in Germany (1880 – 1885) can be identified with the dark tonality, clear atmosphere, and backlighting techniques applied to an Indiana painting.1 “Pleasant Run has been called ‘the masterpiece of his Munich manner’.”2
In an 1886 letter written to fellow Hoosier Group artist J. Ottis Adams Steele advised:
Drop all of Munich but your training. Keep the technical ability and the artistic insight, and exercise them upon American subjects, American portraits, life and landscape.1
In an inscription on the reverse of this painting, Brandt Steele the artist’s son, identified the site as “Osgood’s Farm”. A search by the staff of Indiana Historical Society has failed to find such a farm, but the 1867 map of Marion County locates “Osburns’s Farm” at the south west corner of what is now Tenth Street and Arlington Avenue, traversed by Pleasant Run, just north of what had become in 1870 the suburb of Irvington.1
Pleasant Run is a creek flowing from east to west on the southern part of Indianapolis.2 The creek defined the southern and eastern limited of the city in 1885 and today is a popular greenway; Pleasant Run Trail.
Pleasant Run creek runs through the Irvington neighborhood where Hoosier Group artist William Forsyth (1854-1935) maintained his home and studio from 1906-1935. The precise location of his home and studio was at 15 S. Emerson Avenue (on diagonal corner). An Indiana State Historical Marker noting Forsyth’s home and studio is located on the corner of N. Emerson Avenue and E. Washington Street at Brown’s Corner Park. Forsyth’s home and studio were a few steps from Pleasant Run creek and about two miles downcreek from where Steele painted “Pleasant Run”.
Today, the creek become visible as it passes under Shadeland Avenue in the 1900 block on the eastside of Indianapolis and runs about 10 miles through the east, southeast, and near south side. Just south of downtown, the creek continues under Bluff Road near Gimber Street and spills into White River about a half-mile west.Beginning at the origin of the creek on the eastside, Pleasant Run creek runs by these notable places;3
- Former home of Frank McKinney Hubbard (pen name Kin Hubbard) at 5080 Pleasant Run Parkway. Hubbard who moved into a newly build home in 1909, in the eastside neighborhood of Irvington. Hubbard was an American cartoonist, humorist and journalist, creator of cartoon “Abe Martin” from the fictional town of Bloom Center, Brown Country, Indiana. Inducted into Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 1967. Will Rodgers declared Hubbard “America’s Greatest Humorist”. Kin Hubbard Memorial Park is located at 5100 E. New York Street, where Emerson Avenue crosses Pleasant Run Creek.
- Former home of Hoosier Group artist William Forsyth, 15 S. Emerson Ave, Indiana State Historical Marker at Emerson Avenue & Washington Street (NW corner).
- Former Howe High School, originally known as Irvington High School and built in 1937-38 to serve the Irvington and surrounding area of the eastside, building remains today, and sits on what is known as “Violet Hill” overlooking Pleasant Run creek. Biographies of Thomas Carr Howe and William Forsyth (Hoosier Group) were placed under the cornerstone.
- Former Pleasant Run Children’s Home, opened in 1871, and the building remains standing today, it was to help children orphaned by the Civil War (State Street and Pleasant Run Blvd.), overlooking Pleasant Run creek.
- Charles E. Emmerich Manual Training High School, dedicated in 1895, (original building built in 1895 remains at 525 S. Meridian Street) but the school moved in 1953 to Madison Avenue and Pleasant Run Parkway, and overlooks Pleasant Run creek. Two T.C. Steele paintings are in the school including a large portrait of first principal Charles E. Emmerich.
- Three notable parks are also along the creek:
- Ellenberger Park (est. 1909) in Historic Irvington, 42 acres, its southern border formed by Pleasant Run Creek.
- Christian Park (est. 1921) 64 acres, and forms the northern edge of the Pleasant Run Creek.
- Garfield Park (est. 1876 as Southern Park) first park owned by the city. Includes Conservatory and Sunken Gardens. Park’s south side runs along Pleasant Run creek.
Thanks to Chris Barnett who formerly lived near Pleasant Run in the Christian Park neighborhood and spent countless hours walking along the creek on the Pleasant Run Trail, and in Ellenberger and Christian Parks. Chris was active with Friends of Pleasant Run when the group researched, wrote, and submitted a watershed management plan to IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) and mapped Pleasant Run creek using MapIndy.
The Passage: Return of Indiana Painters from Germany, 1880-1905
The painting Summer Days at Vernon was used at the Jacket Illustration for The Passage – Return of Indiana Painters from Germany: 1880 – 1905
The Passage traces the progress of a generation of Hoosier artists who studied together at the Royal Academy of Painting in Munich in the 1880’s and returned to the United States to achieve national prominence as landscape painters. Such artists include Theodore Clement Steele, John Otis Adams, Samuel Richards, and William Forsythe.
Krause, Martin. The Passage – Return of Indiana Painters from Germany: 1880-1905. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.
1 “Pleasant Run”, Indianapolis Museum of Art, http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/37771/.
2 The 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.
3Barnett, Chris. Interview with David Steele. Phone and email interviews. April 14-20, 2020.