Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
151.76 cm x 102.23 cm | 30 in x 45.5 in
Framed 39.625 in x 54.625 in
Hand carved frame, 22K gold gilt
Signed and dated lower right, private collection
The Hill Country is one of T.C. Steele’s most-exhibited and most important Brown Country paintings. The artist kept this painting in his possession during his lifetime.
After Mary Elizabeth (Libbie) Steele’s death of in November of 1899, T.C. Steele decided to focus on painting landscapes, something Libbie had always encouraged him to do.
Steele began exploring new landscapes to paint and discovered a scenic, isolated area of Brown County, Indiana around 1905 or 1906. In 1907, he purchased 60 acres of land one and a half miles south of Belmont, Indiana (between Bloomington and Nashville, Indiana), and built a hilltop studio and four-room home on the property. Steele continued to purchase additional land adjoining the property totaling 211 acres which remains to this day.
Steele and his second wife Selma Neubacher Steele (1870 – 1945), married in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 9, 1907 and the artist took Selma to the home and property for the first time immediately after their wedding. They quickly moved to their home in Brown Country which they named “House of the Singing Winds”. The home is built from wood and stone and is Arts and Crafts style architecture, which emerged in the US from Boston in the 1890’s.
The Steele’s continued making many improvements and developing the property, including enlarging the home, establishing formal gardens and building a barn-sized studio gallery and several other outbuildings, most of which still remain. The property, home, studio and gardens are nearly the same today as when they lived and worked there.
Steele continued to maintain a studio in Indianapolis, but the home in rural Brown County attracted visitors and other artists leading to the creation of the Brown County Art Colony. Artists who located to the area included Gustave Baumann. The Steele’s made the House of the Singing Winds their year-round residence in 1912.
In 1922 Steele accepted an appointment as Indiana University’s first artist in residence (titled Honorary Professor of Painting) where the university provided a studio on the top floor of Franklin Hall.
He and Selma rented a home in Bloomington, Indiana during the winter months and returned to the House of the Singing Winds during the summers. The Brown County historic site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, U.S. Department of the Interior, in 1973.
In 1945, Selma Neubacher Steele donated the property to the Indiana Department of Conservation to establish the T.C. Steele Historic Site. Today, the site is now managed by Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.
Chicago, Illinois, The Art Institute of Chicago “American Oil Painting and Sculpture: The Twenty-Seventy Annual Exhibition”, November 3 – December 6, 1914 (299)
San Francisco, California, “The Panama-Pacific International Exposition,” February 20 – December 4, 1915
Chicago, Illinois, Picture Galleries of Marshal Field & Company, “Hoosier Salon,” March 8-20, 1926 (269), prizewinner: Edward Rector Memorial (unconfirmed)
Indianapolis, Indiana, The John Herron Art Institute, “Memorial Exhibition, Theodore C. Steele,” December, 1926.
Selma N. Steele, “The House of the Singing Winds” (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1966), p. 144, fig. 47; Harriett G. Warkel, “The Herron Chronical,” (Indianapolis: Herron School of Art IUPUI, 2003), p. 59.
Provenance and permission courtesy Eckert & Ross Fine Art