Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
Framed: 86.36 cm x 73.66 cm | 34 in x 29 in
Signed and dated, lower right | T.C. Steele
Frank C. Ball Collection, gift of the Ball Brothers Foundation, Muncie, Indiana 1995 – David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University
Accession Number: 1995.035.100
This important T.C. Steele painting resides in the collection of the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana. This portrait study was painted in 1884 while Steele was studying in Munich, Germany.
T.C. Steele and his family left Indianapolis for his study at the famed Küoniglichen Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Royal Academy of Art) in Munich, Germany in July of 1880. Steele and his family returned to Indianapolis in 1885. These five years abroad are known as The Munich Period (1880 – 1885). Steele studied under Professor Loeffs and Professor Benzur, living in the suburban village of Schleissheim, where a number of artists were working. It was during this time he painted “The Boatman” (1884), which won a silver medal in the Academy exhibition of 1885, with an offer for its purchase. The Royal Academy omitted landscape painting from their curriculum, but Steele and his classmates created their own program of study.
Portrait Study (a.k.a. Study of a Negro) was shown in the “Memorial Exhibition for Theodore C. Steele 1847 – 1926” at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis (Corner Sixteenth and Pennsylvania Streets, site of the old Tinker homestead).
Sponsored by the Art Association of Indianapolis, this exhibition was held during the month of December, 1926. The exhibition included 183 paintings owned by Indianapolis and Indiana residents, Steele family members and Indiana University.
This painting was part of the private collection of Frank C. Ball, at the time of the 1926 Theodore C. Steele Memorial Exhibition (now owned by the David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University). Frank Ball was one of five Ball brothers who established the Ball Corporation in the 1880’s. The Ball family were American industrialists and philanthropists, and their product most widely recognized product, the “Ball Jar” is still produced and used today for canning.
“Portrait Study” is one of thirteen paintings by T.C. Steele in the collection of the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. These paintings represent three genres: portrait, landscape, still life:
- Portrait Study, signed / 1884
- Tennessee Mountain Land, signed / 1899
- Path Through the Woods, signed / 1900
- Portrait of John Ottis Adams, about 1900
- Untitled (landscape with houses), 1904
- Frosty Morning – Brookville, signed / 1905
- A Summer Day, signed / 1906
- Edge of the Field (a.k.a. Summer Pasture), signed / 1918
- Vase of Flowers, signed / 1919
- Afternoon in Late Autumn, signed / c. 1920-1922
- Peonies in a Dark Red Bowl, signed / 1923
- Untitled (Landscape, road on a hill) / n.d.
- Untitled (Landscape, cow on road) / n.d.
Memorial Exhibition Show Catalog 1926, Study of a Negro, Item No. 21, page 10, and photo page 12 of show catalog ( 6” x 9” paper & stapled at spine). Courtesy James R. Ross Fine Art, Indianapolis, Indiana.
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.
Special thanks to Robert G. La France, PhD, Director, and Denise Mahoney, Registrar and Collection Manager, David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University.