Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
61.27 cm x 51.11 cm | 24 1/8 in x 20 1/8 in
Framed: 81.91 cm x 71.75 cm x 5.71cm|32 ¼ in x 28 ¼ in x 2 ¼ in
Signed and dated lower right T C Steele / 1910
With permission, Indianapolis Museum of Art / Newfields
Bequest in memory of Sara C. Allison by her daughter, Cornelia Allison Frazure
Accession Number: 72.29.1
The painting date of 1910 on this oil on canvas would be three years after T.C. Steele and his second wife Selma moved to Brown County, Indiana in August of 1907. Here they established their home and a studio for the artist on 60 acres, which they later expanded to 211 acres. The home, studio and gardens is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an Indiana State Historic Site.
It is important to mention the Steeles moved to Brown County so the artist could devote his time to landscape painting referred to as plein air. Considering Steele was focused on painting landscapes during the time The Girl by the Window was completed, this painting provides a unique view of the early interior of the House of the Singing Winds prior to restoration the Steele’s completed in 1910.
The following insights are from an interview conducted with Andrea Smith, Site Manager, (retired) T.C. Steele State Historic site;
- This is one of several paintings (along with lots of historic photographs) that we studied to work out the structural history of the sun porch in the House of the Singing Winds before the Steeles restoration.
- Changes made by the Steeles after 1910 mean the finished restoration ended up looking quite different than what you see in the painting, but it’s a valuable reference for the early development of the house.
- This area started out as a screened in sleeping porch, and as far as we could determine, was enclosed at the same time as the 1908 addition of the west wing. That early-enclosed version of the room is what you are seeing in this painting.
- Judging by photos taken by Frank Hoenberger¹, at some point – by 1919 at the latest – this former sleeping porch was combined with the south-facing open porch and it was all enclosed as one L-shaped room.
- Further changes to the windows and adjoining south entry porch were made by 1923 to create the final configuration. After that, any changes to the room were purely cosmetic. One feature that carried over in shortened form was the shelf under the window.
- There is no identity of the woman/girl, it is possible that it is Selma, but there is no way to know for sure one way or another.2
the Allison Family
This painting bequest to Indianapolis Museum of Art in memory of Sara C. Allison (1875 – 1938) by her daughter Cornelia Allison Frazure (1901 – 1971).
Sara C. Allison was the wife of James Asbury Allison, who was an Indianapolis entrepreneur businessman and co-founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Allison later sold the speedway to Eddie Rickenbacker, who then sold the track to Anton Hulman, Jr. in 1946. He founded Allison Experimental Company, renamed Allison Engineering, and later acquired by General Motors in 1929 after his death in 1928. Today, the company operates as Rolls-Royce North America where more Rolls-Royce products are made than anywhere else in the world.
James Asbury Allison (1872 – 1928) and Sara Willis Cornelius Allison (1875 – 1938) are buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The stories of those who have owned and collected T.C. Steele’s works, are many times as interesting as the paintings themselves.
¹Frank M. Hohenberger Photograph Collection, Indiana University, Bloomington, http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/splash.htm?scope=lilly/hohenberger
Note: In 2019 The Indiana Historical Bureau placed an Indiana State Historical Marker in downtown Nashville, Indiana to recognize Frank Hohenberger (1876 – 1963). Visitors to Nashville, Indiana may see a collection of Mr. Hohenberger’s black and white photographs inside the The Nashville House, on the corner of Van Buren & Main Streets. This establishment is a popular and historic restaurant in Nashville, Indiana, which has operated under this name since 1927.
²Interview with Andrea Smith, Site Manager (retired), T.C. Steele State Historic Site, December 18, 2020.