|A Day in Indiana History - September|
Theodore Clement Steele (September 11, 1847 – July 24, 1926)
Theodore Clement Steele, or T. C. Steele, was an Indiana artist through and through. He was the eldest child of saddle maker Samuel Hamilton and his wife Harriett Newell Evans Steele. The family resided in Gosport, Indiana until moving to Waveland in 1852. His art training began there, in Waveland Collegiate Institute. Following that the studied art at Asbury College in Wabash, Indiana, then at Chicago and Cincinnati. He returned to central Indiana to paint commission portraits.
Marriage, Family and Study in Germany
After marrying Mary Elizabeth Lakin, he moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. The family lived there until the birth of their second child, Daisy. He moved his family back to Indianapolis. In Indiana, he supported his family through commission portraits and commercial artwork. His friend, Herman Lieber, helped him go to Germany to study art and arranged finances for the family. Upon his return, Steele's skill and reputation grew. He painted mostly scenes from Indiana with the Muscatatuck River and other rural scenes his favorite. His frequent out of state expeditions provided him with more work for his palette and brush.
His art began to find an audience out of state. During the 1890's his career took off as he published The Steele Portfolio. His work began to appear in major studios and art shows in Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis. It was during the Chicago show that he became instrumental in forming the Hoosier Group of Indiana painters.
House of the Singing Winds
In 1899 Elizabeth died. In August 1907, Steele married Selma Neubacher. His search for landscape painting led him to Metamora, Indiana and the wild Whitewater River. After stays in Brookville, Vernon and Indianapolis, Steele found a secluded property in Brown County. They purchased the property and built the house they called House of the Singing Winds in 1907. Steele's paintings had been exhibited in international galleries and his fame was at its height. He built a studio and they planted gardens around the home. His presence near Nashville, Indiana attracted many other artists to the area. Thus began the Brown County Art Colony.
In 1916, Steele received an honorary doctorate from Indiana University. In 1922, he became the University’s first artist in residence.
After suffering a heart attack in 1925, he recovered and continued working. On July 24, 1926, he sickened and died at the House of the Singing Winds.
The House of the Singing Winds is now an extension of the Indiana State Museum and a State Historic Site. It is open to the public six days a week. The home contains an extensive collection of his work. The gardens are open to the public and accessible by five hiking trails. His art studio is also open to the public.
In addition to the House of the Singing Winds, the gardens and the art gallery visitors can enjoy the Dewar Log Cabin. Selma purchased this cabin from its site five miles away and reconstructed it on the property. She filled it with natural history displays. Visitors can also hike in the ninety-two acre Selma Steele Nature Preserve. Abundant wildlife, wild flowers and beautiful terrain provide a relaxing experience.
Special Events, Displays, Art Sales
The Friends of T.C. Steele State Historic Site provide guided tours of the home and grounds. They also conduct numerous special events, art shows, live plays and other events throughout the year. For more information, call the provided phone number or visit the website.
To get to T. C. Steele State Historic Site from Nashville travel on Indiana State Road 46 about seven miles west to T. C. Steele Road and turn left. Follow the signs.
TC Steele State Historic Site
4220 T.C. Steele Road
Nashville, IN 47448
This article excerpted from the author’s book:
A Visit to Brown County State Park