THEODORE C. STEELE (AMERICAN, 1847-1926)
Theodore Clement Steele was born on September 11, 1847, in Gosport, Owen County, Indiana. He was an Impressionist painter known for his Indiana landscapes. Steele was an innovator and leader in American Midwest painting and is considered to be the most important of Indiana’s Hoosier Group painters.
Steele began formal art training as a boy at the Waveland Collegiate Institute (Waveland Academy). At the age of sixteen, he continued his art training at Asbury College (now DePauw University) in Greencastle, Indiana. He also studied briefly in Chicago, Illinois and Cincinnati, Ohio before returning to Indiana to paint commissioned portraits.
His early patron, Herman Lieber, arranged to provide financial support for Steele and his family to go to Munich, Germany so that he could study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1880.
When he returned to Indianapolis in 1885, he began to exhibit locally as well as at venues such as the Society of American Artists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
In 1890, Steele published The Steele Portfolio, which contained twenty-five photogravure prints of his paintings. Included was “The Boatman,” his prize-winning student work from Munich. In 1891, Steele became an instructor at the Indiana Art School, which he established in 1889.
His inclusion in a major exhibit of Indiana artists in Indianapolis in 1884 proved to be extremely successful and the exhibit continued on to Chicago. "Five Hoosier Painters," sponsored by the Central Art Association, placed Steele on the national stage.
Steele also participated in other prestigious exhibitions, including the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago (1893); The Louisiana Purchase Exhibit, Saint Louis (1904); The International Exhibit of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires, Argentina (1910); and The Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco (1915).
Steele was awarded an honorary degree from Wabash College in 1900, as well as one from Indiana University in 1916. He was also elected as an associate member of New York’s National Academy of Design in 1913.
Theodore Clement Steele died on July 24, 1926.
Today his works can be found in private and public collections, including the Indiana State Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Indiana Universtiy Art Museum.