Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
90.17 cm x 109.85 cm | 35 1/2 in x 43 1/4 in
Signed and dated lower right, T.C. Steele / 1912
Previously in the Indianapolis Museum of Art Collection, John Herron Fund
Transferred to Leslie Hindman Auctioneer; Sold at American and European Art 11 December 2010, (lot 48)
Former accession number: 13.306, D
Winter Sunlight was painted in 1912 and shown in the Memorial Exhibition for Theodore C. Steele 1847 – 1926 at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis (Corner Sixteenth and Pennsylvania Streets, site of the old Tinker homestead). Sponsored by the Art Association of Indianapolis, this exhibition was held during the month of December, 1926.
T.C. Steele died July 24, 1926 and this memorial exhibit, held later in the same year, was orchestrated by the Director of the John Herron Art Institute, J. Arthur MacLean, and an advisory committee comprised of Mrs. T.C. Steele, J.W. Pearcey, Brandt Steele, the Rev. F.S.C. Wicks, and Carl Lieber.³
“Three thousand forms asking for information in regard to the ownership and availability of Mr. Steele’s paintings have been sent out, and it is hoped that everybody who knows about Mr. Steele’s early, intermediate or late work will notify the director of the institute of its whereabouts, so that a complete list of all know works by the artist may be compiled. Mr. Steele’s work may be divided into four groups: (1) His pre-Munich work; (2) his Munich work; (3) his portrait work, and (4) his Brown country or latest work.”³
T.C. Steele spent a good portion of the winter of 1912-1913 painting from his two remote studios on the grounds of his Nashville, Indiana property.
In 1907 Steele purchased 60 acres of land approximately one and a half miles south of Belmont, Indiana, between Bloomington and Nashville, Indiana and had a hilltop studio and home built on the property. Steele moved into the new summer residence with Selma Neubacher Steele, his second wife, in August 1907.⁴
Steele and his wife developed the property and in 1911 purchased additional acreage to increase their property to 211 acres of land. They made many improvements to their home known as “House of the Singing Winds”, established beautiful gardens, built a barn-sized studio and art gallery, and built several other outbuildings including two remote studios.⁴
The view in Winter Sunlight was from one of the “two remote studios” Steele built after he acquired his former nearest neighbor’s property in 1910 (Washington and Carolyn Parks). The remote studios were built on the former Washington and Carolyn Parks property the following year.⁴
This particular remote studio (site of Winter Sunlight) was located in the ravine near the creek bed in what is now the Selma N. Steele State Nature Preserve. The location of the ravine studio is known, but the T.C. Steele State Historic Site chose not to reconstruct it because the area floods often in the spring, and the streambed has moved due to erosion.
Steele wrote about one of his winter paintings:
“I had built a work studio on the banks of this little stream with special regard for winter subjects. Here I could be protected from the weather and paint from the windows, looking both up and down the stream and in fact many directions, and finding many subjects in that picturesque combination of hills and trees and running water.”⁵
The other remote studio, on the ridgetop, was reconstructed instead. Indiana State Museum and Historical Sites has in their collection several paintings that show this same view from slightly different angles; at least three have been shown in recent years, two of winter scenes like this, one a spring scene. The best known of these is “Winter in the Ravine / Early Snow.”⁴
The Eskenazi Health Art Collection, and the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis also shows this view in the Winter mural, 1914. This mural is available for public viewing in the Eskenazi Hospital, 1st Floor, The Rapp Family Conference.6
Paint and Canvas – A Life of T.C. Steele, by Rachel Berenson Perry, features remote studio (referred to as painting shack) photo, page 98 and description of these winter panting locations, page 105.5
Special thanks to the following for their subject matter expertise in assembling the content for Winter Sunlight:
- James Ross, Principal, James R. Ross Fine Art, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Andrea Smith deTarnowsky, Site Manager (retired), T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Brown County Indiana.
¹Steele, Theodore Clement. “Winter Sunlight.” Indianapolis Museum of Art Online Collection, January 1, 1970. http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/54073/.
²Memorial Exhibition for Theodore C. Steele 1847 – 1926”. Show catalog from 1926 exhibit, provided the James R. Ross Fine Art, Indianapolis, Indiana.
³“Institute to Conduct Memorial Exhibition of T.C. Steele’s Works.” The Indianapolis Star, October 17, 1926.
⁴Interview with Andrea Smith, Site Manager (retired), T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Inc., January 24, 2021.
⁵Perry, Rachel Berenson. Paint and Canvas: a Life of T. C. Steele. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2011.
6Eskenazi Health Art Collection, Eskenazi Health, Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital, 1st Floor The Rapp Family Conference Center, 720 Eskenazi Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46202.