This February during a break at our elder’s retreat in Brown County, Gary Boring and I got away to visit the T.C. Steel home and studio.
I wanted to visit this famous Hoosier artist’s studio-gallery for two reasons. First, to enjoy his art and be immersed in this part of Indiana’s cultural history. Second, I hoped that Steele’s studio-gallery would be an inspiration for Sunnyshore Studio that I was planning to build. I was not disappointed on either front.
Thedore Clement Steele (September 11, 1847-July 24, 1926) was “an American Impressionistic 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.” (Wikipedia)
Steele was an Indiana boy, born near Gosport in Owen County. His family moved to Waveland, in Montgomery County where Steele “developed an interest in art and learned to draw.” (Wikipedia) As a boy, Steele was formally trained in art at the Waveland Collegiate Institute; at the age of 16 he continued his art training at Asbury College (now DePauw University).
I first encountered Steele’s art in the halls of Indianapolis Public School #14. It turned out that many of this famous Indiana artist’s works graced the halls of many IPS schools. Back then, even before I knew of his fame, I was struck by what an amazing opportunity it was for urban kids to be walking by, day in and day out, his beautiful artwork.
Steele married Mary Elizabeth Lakin in 1870, and they moved to Indianapolis a few years later where Steele supported the family through commissioned portraits and commercial signs. After a period of training in art in Munich, Germany, Steele returned to Indianapolis, to a home just a few blocks from where we live, the Tinker mansion on 16th and Pennsylvania street (which was eventually torn down and became the Herron Art Institue, which is now Herron High School). In 1898 the Steeles bought a home in Brookville, Indiana, which they named The Hermitage. Steele developed an extraordinary gift in painting landscapes, though he made his living painting portraits. Unfortunately, Mary died in November 1899 at the young age of forty-nine.
In August, 1907 Steel married Selma Neubacher, “and brought her to their new summer home in Brown County. Inspired by the breezes blowing through the cottage’s screened porches, they named it the ‘House of the Singing Winds’. There Steele continued to paint his stunning landscapes, inspired by the “beautiful picturesque woods and hills and valleys.” Over time “Steel was financially able to develop the property and eventually made it a full-time residence. The property, built on 211 acres, grew to include an enlarged home surrounded by beautiful gardens, a barn-sized studio-gallery, and several other outbuildings.” (Wikipedia)
This is the home and studio-gallery that Gary and I visited.
It was a wet, misty day. On the way to Steele’s gallery, Gary and I came across a tree that had fallen across the road. We were able to push it off the road, and felt very manly in doing so.
The grounds of the T.C. Steele historic site were breathtaking.
His art even more stunning.
I was overwhelmed by the huge barn like Gallery in which Steele worked and his beautiful paintings,
fascinated by the Arts and Crafts styled home filled with his books and art,
and inspired by the little store/office that sells books, posters, prints and other Brown County treasures.
I hope someday that Sunnyshore Studio will be an art destination that people will visit too.
But by far the best part of the day was being with Gary. Driving. Talking. Laughing. Remembering. It was one of those holy moments of friendship where no matter what life brings, nothing can take that away from you.