Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
68.58 cm x 56.51 cm | 27 in x 22.25 in
Framed: 68.58 cm x 56.51 cm | 27 in x 22.25 in
Signed and dated lower left, T.C. Steele / Munich 1884
With permission, Indianapolis Museum of Art, James E. Roberts Fund
Accession Number: 71.225
After moving to Indianapolis, T.C. Steele developed a friendship with Herman Lieber, who later became his financial supporter to study in Germany (1880 -1885). Steele chose Munich as it was cheaper than Paris. “When Steele returned to Indianapolis, he painted portraits and landscapes, many were dark and dramatic, in the style known as the Munich School.”¹
By 1886, Steele and his family lived at what is referred to as Tinker Place, or Talbott Place where he maintained a home and studio for his portrait and landscape painting. To repay Herman Lieber and his other sponsors who had financed his trip and study in Germany, Steele began painting portraits. By the following spring after moving into Tinker/Talbott, he had completed 14 portraits and over the next 10 years established himself as the city’s premier portrait artist.2
Author William H. Gerdts, in his book Theodore Clement Steele: American Master of Light provides insight into The Munich Model.
“In this three-quarter length figure study, Steele does not highlight the sitter’s face in the customary manner, but instead concentrates the light on her white blouse. This striking illumination emphasizes the diagonal created by the chair and the model’s arm, adding a dynamic quality to the composition. The dramatic lighting also emphasized the contrast between the sitter’s white blouse and the richly textured Asian rug covering the chair.”1
Gerdts also mentions that students painted a variety of poses in their academic portraits. These ranged from profiles and three-quarter angles to full frontal and rear views, giving students at the Royal Academy in Munich a full grounding in every aspect of portraiture.
1William H. Gerdts. Theodore Clement Steele: American Master of Light, New York: Chameleon Books, 1995. B001KSYWO6
2Photo, circa 1890, T.C. Steele In His Studio at Tinker House, Indiana Historical Society