Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
151.76 cm x 102.23 cm | 13.75 in x 20.5 in
Signed and dated lower right
Period-style 22K gold gilt frame
Private Collection, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert B. Feldmann, Indianapolis
T.C. Steele spent the summer of 1899 in Tennessee painting. “The Tennessee landscape and mountains offered new material and new effects for Steele.”¹ There are only a handful of these Tennessee paintings known, and they have become an important part of his body of work.
Tennessee was chosen as a result of Libbie Steele’s health (Mary Elizabeth Lakin Steele, 1850-1899) who was diagnosed in the early summer of 1899 as having contracted tuberculosis. “Believing that cool clear mountain air might help her, Steele took her and his daughter Daisy embed to the Village of Roan Mountain in the Tennessee Appalachians.”¹ They returned to Indianapolis in mid-September and Libbie died on November 14, 1899 in Indianapolis at Tinker Talbott place.
“His painting during their summer stay openly reflected his anguish over Libbie’s deteriorating condition. According to one of their grandchildren, the artist did “a picture that summer in Tennessee of a river, a very stormy sort of thing. I always felt; I think he was tremendously upset.”2
Interview, Theodore L. Steele
The Rushville Republican newspaper (Rushville, Indiana) reported on Friday, November 17, 1899:3
“Last night at 7 o’clock the death of Mrs. Mary Steele, wife of artist T.C. Steele, occurred at the family home, the old Talbott homestead, corner of Sixteenth and Pennsylvania streets. Mrs. Steele was a woman of unusual refinement and culture and was wrapped up in the lifework of her husband.”
Rushville, Indiana is the birthplace and former hometown of Mary Elizabeth Lakin. She left Rushville to attend Waveland Collegiate Institute in Waveland, Indiana; where she met fellow student T.C. Steele. She and T.C. Steele were married in Rushville, Indiana on February 14, 1870.
Waveland, Indiana is also the childhood hometown of T.C. Steele; his boyhood home remains today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, US Department of the Interior.
The Hoosier Group: Five American Painters 1985
William H. Gerdts, Ph.D, Judith Vale Newton, Jane and Henry Eckert, Eckert Publications, Indianapolis, ISBN: 0-9614992-0-6
¹The House of the Singing Winds, Selma N. Steele, Theodore L. Steele, Wllbur D. Peat, Indiana Historidcal Society, Indianapolis, 1966
²The Hoosier Group – Five American Painters, 1985, William H. Gerdts, Ph.D, Judith Vale Newton, Jane and Henry Eckert, Eckert Publications, Indianapolis, ISBN: 0-9614992-0-6
³The Rushville Republican, 17 November 1899, Friday, pg. 4