Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on fabric
102.23 cm x 122.55 cm | 40.25 in x 48.25 in
Framed: 109.22 cm x 129.54 cm x 6.35 cm | 43 in x 51 in x 2.5 in
Signed and dated lower left, Theo. C. Steele / 1878
With permission, Indianapolis Museum of Art / Newfields
Accession Number: 1994.186
Bequest of Zelda C. Metzger (1899 – 1994), given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in 1994.
This painting is referred to as a “Still Life” which is a principal genre of Western art. Typically still life painting can include anything that does not move, and may be seen often in painting or drawing as arrangements of objects, typically including fruit and flowers and objects contrasting with these in texture, such as bowls and glassware. Still life became an independent genre in art in the early 17th century. Famous still life artists in the 20th century include Henri Matisse, Roy Lichtenstein and Georgia O’Keeffe.1
Key events in Steele’s life during the time period this painting was completed;2
- T.C. Steele would have been 31 years old when he painted this still life.
- Steele moved to Indianapolis in 1870, the same year as he married Mary Elizabeth Lakin who he met at Waveland Academy.
- The newly married couple moved to Battle Creek, Michigan where Steele fulfilled a number of commissioned portraits returning two years later to Indianapolis.
- In 1873 upon return to Indianapolis, Steele set up a studio and they lived in a number of places, the longest of which was an apartment in the Bradshaw Block on Washington Street. His work enlisted the interest of Herman Lieber who would help develop a financial plan, backed by local patrons of the emerging art movement, to send Steele to Munich to study.
- Steele painted this still life after returning from Battle Creek, Michigan, but prior to his study in Munich 1880 – 1885.
1A Very Brief History of Still Life, 19th Century European Paintings, Southeby’s, April 18, 2017, Maria Zinser https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/a-very-brief-history-of-still-life
2Theodore Clement Steele and Mary Lakin Steele Papers, 1896 – 1966, Collection# M 0460, Indiana Historical Society, gift of Theodore L. Steele, Indianapolis, Indiana and Brandt F. Steele, Denver, Colorado, 16 October 1986.