Theodore Clement Steele was born on September 11, 1847 in Owen County, Indiana. When “T.C.” was five, the family moved to Waveland, Indiana. T.C. began painting at an early age and upon graduating from college began earning a living as a portrait painter. In 1870, T.C. married Mary Lakin. The couple moved to Indianapolis. They also spent two years in Battle Creek, Michigan while T.C. fulfilled a number of portrait commissions. In 1873, the couple returned to Indianapolis and T.C. opened a studio. Through the help of an art patron and other acquaintances, T.C. raised enough money to move his family to Munich while he attended art school for five years. In return for the financial aid, T.C. agreed to send his supporters the paintings he produced in Munich.
T.C. studied painting at the Munich Academy with Ludwig von Loefftz. He also painted landscapes under the guidance of the American expatriate artist, J. Frank Currier. Loefftz was the more academic of his two teachers and gave T.C. the basis for his future portrait work. It was darker and more controlled than his landscapes. While in Munich, he also met fellow students William Forsyth and John Otis Adams who became lifelong friends and colleagues.
In 1885, T.C. and his family returned to Indianapolis. T.C. opened an art school with Susan Ketcham and later with William Forsyth.
T.C., along with William Forsyth, Otto Stark, John Otis Adams and Richard Gruelle, became known as the “Hoosier Group”. T.C. became the group’s acknowledged leader and often wrote articles on Impressionism for Modern Art. T.C. continued to build his reputation as a modern landscape painter. In 1905, he bought 200 acres in Brown County. He built his studio and home there and called it, “The House of Singing Winds”. Brown County and his estate became the focus of most of T.C’s paintings. In 1913, he was elected to the National Academy. T.C. applied impressionist technique to scenes of his beloved Indiana. He helped make Brown County an artistic destination for Midwest painters.
His brilliant use of color and his strong designs keep him at the forefront of 19th century American regionalist painting. T.C. Steele continued to paint until his death on the 24th of July, 1926.
Theodore Clement SteeleWilliam H. Gerdts
The Hoosier Group: Five American PaintersJudith Vale Newton
American ImpressionismWilliam H Gerdts
It is light that gives mystery to shadow, vibration to atmosphere, and makes all the color notes sing together in harmony. ~Theodore Clement Steele