Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
45.72 cm x 72.39 cm | 18 in x 28 1/2 in
Signed and dated lower right
Private Indiana collection, previously owned by the late Clarence and Mildred Long
“The Brook in the Woods, of 1899 still bears some of the strategies of his Munich Years, combining the lush coloration with rather dramatic darks in the tree trunks, the brook, and especially the lovely woman in black walking with her child in the landscape.”¹
The late William H. Gerdts
Professor Emeritus of Art History
Graduate School of the City University of New York
In The Passage, Return of Indiana Painter from Germany, 1880 – 1905, author Martin Krause mentions the loss of the Steele’s infant daughter in 1888 and the sadness this created for Theodore and Libbie. He further states she was supposed to be their last child, and does not stretch credibility to suppose that the figure in black is Libbie in a mother’s morning clothes.
The child beside the figure is inconspicuous and many suggest this was the artist’s intent. Mr. Krause asks in his book, “if it is his wife Libbie, who might the child at her side be?” The couple’s surviving children, Rembrandt, Margaret (Daisy), and Shirley (Ted), were too old for the role. Krause goes on to state, “Steele, normally straightforward, painted an enigma.”²
Of further interest author Krause writes “Like apparitions, the two figures dramatically appear in an otherwise predictable landscape. They command attention here as no other figures in Steele’s oeuvre do. Their presence transforms a typical Steele landscape with figure into an atypical painting of figures in a landscape. The nuance may seem slight, but it is so uncommon for Steele to give such prominence to the human element that it must have been calculated.”²
Special thanks to Eckert & Ross Fine Art.
T.C. Steele: the Clarence and Mildred Long Collection
The Brook in the Woods appears on page 10, 14 and 15 of T.C. Steele: The Clarence and Mildred Long Collection show catalog, 2004.
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.
¹T.C. Steele: The Clarence and Mildred Long Collection, pg. 11, 12, Eckert & Ross Fine Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, January 1, 2004, Paperback.
²The 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. 100, 101.