The Tinker House (shown) is where T.C. Steele lived with his family after returning from Munich in 1885. This mansion was razed to build the John Herron Art Institute, which evolved into Herron School of Art and Design and then Indianapolis Museum of Art. The new building, which replaced the Tinker House still stands and is a Mayor’s Charter School, Herron High School.
After the Steele family returned to Indianapolis from Munich, and moved into Tinker House, on 16th Street between Pennsylvania Street and Talbott Avenue, T.C. Steele began painting portraits to repay his sponsors to financing his studies in Germany.
By the spring of 1886, he had completed 14 portraits and over the next 10 years established himself as the city’s premier portrait artist. He painted such business leaders as Eli Lilly, Lyman Ayres, Clemons Vonnegut and painted the official portraits of Indiana Governors, Isaac Gray, Albert Porter, Alvin Hovey, Ira Chase and Claude Mathews. All Governor’s portraits painted by T.C. Steele hang in the Indiana State Capitol.
T.C. Steele painted a portrait of Civil War Governor Oliver P. Morton, as one of the epochal governors chosen for the centennial celebration in 1916, but Steele did not his official portrait. Steele also painted a portrait of Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley which hangs in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and President Benjamin Harrison which hangs in the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, Indianapolis, Indiana.
While at Tinker House, T.C. Steele spent his winters on portrait work and teaching and devoted his warm weather days traveling in the country and painting landscapes.