Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
55.88 cm x 81.28 cm | 22 in x 32 in
Signed lower right T.C. Steele
By permission, Haan Museum of Indiana Art, Lafayette, Indiana
Acquired from Eckert Fine Art in October 1992 (now James R. Ross Fine Art)
On July 24, 1880, T.C. Steele, his wife Mary Elizabeth (Libbie) and their three children, Rembrandt (Brandt), Margaret (Daisey), and Shirley (Ted) boarded the S.S. Belgenland sailing out of New York for Antwerp. This would begin his five years of study at the Royal Academy in Munch (1880-1885).
Steele began studying at the famed Küoniglichen Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Royal Academy of Art) in Munich, Germany in July of 1880, returning to Indianapolis in May of 1885. These five years abroad are known as The Munich Period (1880 – 1885). Steele studied under Professor Loeffs and Professor Benzur, living in the suburban village of Schleissheim, where several artists were working.¹
This beautiful village scene was painted in 1885, the same year that Steele and his family returned from Germany (May of 1885). The painting is believed by art experts to have been painted from sketches he made in Germany and painted upon his return to Indianapolis. However, this is not documented.
In closing, this painting clearly illustrates why Steele was known as the “Master of Light”.
Indiana Impressions: The Art of T.C. Steele
Indiana Historical Society
April 21 – July 9, 2016
Theodore Clement Steele – An American Master of Light
Valparaiso University Museum of Art
December 10, 1995 – February 4, 1996
Evansville Museum of Arts & Science
February 18 – March 31, 1996
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia
May 4 – June 16, 1996
Indiana University Art Museum
August 4 – September 29, 1996
National Academy of Design
New York, New York
January 12 – March 9, 1997
William H. Gerdts. Theodore Clement Steele: American Master of Light, New York: Chameleon Books, 1995 (see page 31)
The Haan Museum of Indiana Art
The Haan Mansion began as the Connecticut Building at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (officially the Louisiana Purchase Exposition). Numerous parts from the 1760 Hubbard-Slater mansion in Norwich were used in the building, which was purchased by William and Fannie Potter after the Fair and reconstructed in Lafayette.
The home was in poor condition when the Haans purchased it from the Potter descendants in 1984, but the Haans lived in the home as it was, while running Haan Crafts (their company that made sewing projects to teach students how to sew) and raising their three sons. When they started working on the house in 1992, they decided to decorate the walls with paintings by Indiana artists, thinking that it would be less expensive than important American paintings, and that there would be fewer artists to learn about. They had no idea about the quality of work that was produced in Indiana, or how that decision would change their lives.
The timing was perfect, as it was shortly after The Passage exhibition of paintings by T.C. Steele, J Ottis Adams and William Forsythe, the three Hoosier Group members who studied in Munich. The exhibition and a book were put together by Marty Krause at what was then the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the show also traveled to Munich and New York City. Many of the paintings were borrowed from private collectors, and some of those collectors decided that it was the ideal time to sell, because the values would never be higher.
The Haans sought out major paintings by Indiana’s most important artists, and only bought the artists’ best works. Many of the paintings in the collection are featured in books about Indiana art – some before Bob and Ellie purchased them, and some after they became part of the Haan collection.
The first public tour of the Haan mansion was in 1994, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Fair and the building. At that time, the Haans had only renovated the first floor, except for the kitchen and butler’s pantry. The tour was to benefit two preservation organizations – the Wabash Valley Trust for Historic Preservation and Indiana Landmarks. They said that they would be elated if 1000 people came. They were stunned when they had over 2700 people in one weekend.
Other Museums began to borrow paintings for special exhibitions about Indiana art. Bob and Ellie continued buying major paintings until they sold their business in 2003, and they knew that they needed to limit their buying. It became increasingly obvious that they needed to keep the collection together to showcase Indiana’s rich cultural heritage, and a museum was the way to achieve their goal. Indiana ceramics and American furniture put the finishing touches on the Museum.
The Museum is now run by a Board of Directors, a small staff, and many volunteers.
Special thanks to Bob and Ellie Haan
Haan Museum of Indiana Art, Lafayette, Indiana
references / recommended reading
¹Krause, Martin. The Passage – Return of Indiana Painters from Germany: 1880-1905. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.