Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
72.39 cm x 50.80 cm | 28 1/2 in x 20 in
Framed: 82.55 cm x 62.23 cm x 3.81| 32 1/2 in x 24 1/2 in x 1 1/2 in
Unsigned by artist
Private Collection, Martha Shea, Proprietor & Innkeeper
The Hermitage is located in Brookville, Indiana and listed on the National Register of Historic Places (2004).1
The original home, built in 1835 was reconfigured by the artists T.C. Steele and J. Ottis Adams in 1898. The architecture of this one and a half story bungalow is American Craftsman inspired frame dwelling with clapboard sheathing. The Hermitage property is 6.6 acres overlooking the east fork of the Whitewater River.
The Hermitage is important to the body of work by T.C. Steele, especially the “Brookville Period, 1898 – 1906” where Steele painted extensively in the Whitewater Valley.
Steele and fellow Hoosier Group artist J. Ottis Adams began annual summer visits to the Brookville area painting in the Whitewater Valley. During this time, they discovered the Hermitage and purchased the home in 1898. Hoosier Group painters William Forsyth and Otto Stark also visited Steele and Adams at times.
The Hoosier Group consisted of five impressionist artists from 1880 to 1915 Steele, William Forsyth, Otto Stark, J. Ottis Adams and Richard Gruelle. The artists met and studied in Munich, Germany, in the 1880s where they mastered their craft before returning to Indiana. The group received its name in 1894 by Chicago art critic and novelist Hamlin Garland during an exhibition at the Denison Hotel in Indianapolis.²
The home was named the “Hermitage” by T.C. Steele’s wife Mary Elizabeth (Libbie). This summer home was used by both the Steele and Adams families for several years, from 1898 to 1907. Steele lost his wife Libbie to tuberculosis in 1899 and later sold his interest to Adams in 1907.
The artists intended the Hermitage to be a summer retreat, but Adams married Winifred Brady in 1898, and the Hermitage became a permanent home for J. Ottis and Winifred Adams.
Steele and Adams added studios on opposite ends of the existing house. Steele on the south end and Adams on the north end. After Steele sold his interest to Adams, Winifred Adams, also an accomplished artist, ended up using Steele’s studio after he moved.
The Adamses had many visitors at their Brookville home. Another member of the Hoosier School, Otto Stark, was a frequent guest. J. Ottis Adams also ran an art school from the house for several years. He lived there off and on until his death in 1927. Winifred split her time between the Hermitage and Indianapolis until her death in 1945.³
Much of the 19-room home contains artifacts, furniture and original architectural features. The studios of Steele and Adams are largely unchanged in design since the period the artists painted in these rooms. The house library of J. Ottis Adams still contains the books he and his wife Winifred collected and they remain in their places in the built-in bookcases to this day.
T.C. Steele completed a pencil drawing of the “Hermitage” that currently hangs in the living room of the historic home. This pencil drawing is sitting on a wooden easel used by J. Ottis Adams.
The stained glass French doors, which separate the living room of the home from T.C. Steele’s studio, were crafted by Rembrandt (Brandt) Steele, the artist’s son. These doors contain 406 individual pieces of stained glass.
We encourage visitors of this site, to spend a night or weekend at The Hermitage Bed & Breakfast. Martha Shea, the Innkeeper has owned this property for the past 42 years (assumed ownership in 1978). Visiting Brookville, the Whitewater Valley, nearby Metamora, and an overnight stay at The Hermitage is an excellent way to experience the home of these artists and the natural beauty of the area they loved to paint.
The town of Brookville, Indiana is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (#7000018, 1975) and is recognized by the Indiana Historical Bureau with an Indiana State Historical Marker (ID# 24.1992.1) acknowledging the Brookville Historic District.
You will not regret this experience!
Inaugural Exhibit of The Hoosier Group, September, 27-10, 1984, Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis, Indiana, #63 “The Hermitage”
¹The Hermitage, National Register of Historic Places, #04000209, 2004 – https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/AssetDetail?assetID=e5680ec4-8421-4bdd-a7e4-e7941561fad7
²The Hoosier Group, Indiana History Blog, Indiana Historical Society, April 14, 2016.
³Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, “The Hermitage,” Discover Indiana, accessed December 25, 2020, https://publichistory.iupui.edu/items/show/238.
⁴Interview with Martha Shea, The Hermitage, Brookville, Indiana, December 22, 2020 w/ follow-up December 26, 2020.
5Shifman, Barry. “Work Worth Doing: Brandt Steele, Designer and Potter.” Traces 6, no. 1 (Winter 1994): 16-21.