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Adams, Forsyth and Steele: Indiana Paintings from the Lilly Endowment Collection


The Indianapolis Museum of Art has organized and is touring the exhibition "Adams, Forsyth and Steele: Indiana Paintings from the Lilly Endowment Collection."

This exhibition highlights works by J. Ottis Adams, William Forsyth and T.C. Steele-the three most prominent members of the Hoosier Group, which also includes the Paris-trained artist Otto Stark and the self-taught painter Richard Gruelle.

Unlike many American artists who studied in Europe and then abandoned their hometowns for New York City, Adams, Forsyth and Steele returned to Indiana from their training at the Royal Academy in Munich to focus on the Hoosier landscape. Early works by all three artists focus on the customs and pastimes of the German people and are executed with a dark palate and broad brushstrokes. By the 1890s, they had all adopted an Impressionist style and their paintings of American scenes became brighter and filled with texture.

Adams, Forsyth and Steele features familiar Indiana landscapes rendered by these accomplished artists, including tranquil scenes from Brown County and Butler's Hill, as well as paintings representing the artists' travels outside of Indiana.

The touring schedule for ten institutions within Indiana includes: Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana, October 26 2002 - December 15, 2002; Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, Indiana, January 25 - April 6, 2003; Richmond Art Museum, Richmond, Indiana, April 26 - July 6, 2003; DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, July 26 - October 12, 2003; Anderson Fine Arts Center, Anderson, Indiana, October 25, 2003 - January 4, 2004; South Bend Regional Museum of Art, South Bend, Indiana, January 24 - April 4, 2004; Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences, Evansville, Indiana, April 24 - July 4, 2004; Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso, Indiana, July 24 - October 10, 2004; Minnetrista Cultural Center, Muncie, Indiana, October 23, 2004 - January 2, 2005 and Purdue University Galleries, West Lafayette, Indiana, January 10 - February 20, 2005.

Following are images of paintings from the traveling exhibition accompanied by wall texts and interpretative labels for works in the exhibition.


Adams, Forsyth and Steele: Indiana Paintings from the Lilly Endowment Collection

Unlike many American artists who studied in Europe and abandoned their hometowns for New York City, J. Ottis Adams, William Forsyth and T. C. Steele returned to Indiana from their training at the Royal Academy in Munich to focus on the Hoosier landscape. The artists' first canvases showed an adherence to the Munich manner in their dark tonalities and limited palette of green, gray and brown. Gradually their landscapes became sun filled with richly textured surfaces and blurred contours that exhibited the qualities associated with Impressionism. In the winter of 1894 an exhibition entitled Five Hoosier Painters highlighted the summer work of Adams, Forsyth, Steele, the Paris-trained artist Otto Stark and the self-taught painter Richard Gruelle. Thus the "Hoosier Group" was born.

This exhibition focuses on the three most prominent members of the Hoosier Group, Adams, Forsyth and Steele. Steele painted Munich Haying in 1884 when he was a student at the Academy. The influence of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where numerous works by French Impressionists were shown, is evident in Steele's 1894 painting Morning - the Sheep with its bright blue sky and rich yellow-green landscape. More vibrant still is Steele's 1904 Whitewater River, Brookville, a bright sunlit scene viewed from The Hermitage, the home Steele and Adams shared from 1898 to 1907. In 1907, when Steele built the House of the Singing Winds in Brown County, his landscapes began to reflect his new home and studio. Although Indiana scenes dominated Steele's canvases, he occasionally traveled to the West, where he painted The Clam Diggers near Nye Creek on the Oregon Coast in 1904.

The earliest work by Forsyth in the exhibition is Bavarian Beer Garden done in Munich in 1881. Americans were fascinated by the customs and pastimes of the German people, especially activities associated with the beer garden. In his Road to Vernon painted in the summer of 1891, Forsyth captures the tranquil landscape of this Southern Indiana town. Forsyth used his wife Alice in many of his paintings often showing her in the garden as in Alice Picking Flowers. In 1906 the artist and his family moved to Irvington, a small community outside of Indianapolis bounded by Pleasant Run Parkway. The Bridge depicts this area in the vibrant and animated brushwork that distinguishes Forsyth's style.

Adams moved permanently to The Hermitage in Brookville, Indiana in 1904. Before settling in the area, he and his family had spent their summers there enjoying the woods and the river. Butler's Hill done in 1901 shows the spot that is perched on a ridge above the forks of the Whitewater River. Adams and his wife planted a beautiful garden at The Hermitage filled with poppies that the artist often captured in his canvases. He also built a family summer cottage in Indiana Woods at Leland, Michigan in 1905. Several of the artist's landscapes depict this area, including Sand Hill, Leland.


About Lilly Endowment

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation based in Indianapolis that was created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family, Josiah K. Lilly Sr. and his sons, Josiah K. Jr. and Eli, through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although gifts of stock in the company remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location.

In keeping with the wishes of its founders, the Endowment exists to support the causes of community development, education and religion. It affords special emphasis to projects that benefit young people and that promote leadership education and financial self-sufficiency in the nonprofit sector. The Lilly family's foremost priority was to help the people of their city and state build a better life. Although the Endowment supports efforts of national significance and an occasional international project, it remains primarily committed to its hometown and home state.

Over the years the Endowment has sought to recognize, encourage and develop creativity in the state. It takes great pride in Indiana's heritage of cultural accomplishment. The Hoosier Group includes some of Indiana's most important Impressionist painters. To ensure significant examples of their work stayed in Indiana for the benefit of its citizens, the Endowment acquired the works you see in this exhibition.

J. Ottis Adams
Butler's Hill, 1901
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
Butler's Hill is perched on a ridge above the
junction where the Whitewater River forks.
For Adams the most memorable quality of the
area was its color. Here the blue hill rises up
like a majestic figure in the countryside dotted
with white houses that are dwarfed by trees
and thick bushes. The flatness of the pale
blue water acts as a counterpoint to the
diagonal thrust of the hill whose ascent is
contained by a dense row of foliage. The sky
is accented with blue and yellow and the grass
has a purple hue interspersed with a multitude
of colors that pulsate throughout the canvas.

J. Ottis Adams
Poppy Garden, 1901-1908
oil on board
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
The Hermitage, Adams's home in Brookville,
Indiana, was surrounded by land that
remained in its natural setting. To the north
of the house below the artist's studio window
were flowerbeds containing Oriental poppies,
lemon and white lilies, hollyhocks, jonquils
and narcissus. Here, Adams painted the
poppy garden along with his wife Winifred
Brady, his sons John Alban and Robert Brady,
and their dog, whose white fur and brown
ears can be seen in the middle of the poppies.
The indistinct blue-green foliage serves as a
dramatic backdrop to the bright orange
poppy field and the colorful spring flowers
that line the edge of the garden. The flowers
are painted with animated brush strokes and
are suggested rather than defined.


J. Ottis Adams
Sand Hill, Leland
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
In 1905 Adams built a family summer cottage
in Indiana Woods at Leland, Michigan.
Leland is situated on a narrow sliver of land
between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau.
The Victorian-style dwelling that Winifred
Adams nicknamed Bluebelle was on a bluff
overlooking Lake Michigan. On the second
floor of the cottage Adams converted the
northwest corner bedroom into a studio. This
painting depicts Lake Leelanau where the
family liked to take boat rides. Adams
focuses on the uncultivated nature of the area
that surrounds the lake, which is barely
visible in the middle distance. The blue water,
lavender mountains and cloud-filled blue sky
contrast with the yellow-green landscape that
dominates the composition.


William Forsyth
Bavarian Beer Garden, 1887
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
While Forsyth was studying at the Royal
Academy, he spent his spare time painting the
area's citizens. There was no more familiar
Munich scene than the outdoor beer garden on
Sunday. The dark tonality of the Munich
style is evident in this canvas, but it is
interspersed with light greens and purples in
a well thought out and complex color scheme.
The year after this was painted Forsyth
returned to Indianapolis. His Indiana
colleague T. C. Steele had come back in 1885
and Adams had returned to Muncie in 1887.
Unlike many Americans who had studied
abroad and returned to pursue their careers in
New York, the Hoosier artists came home to
their native state to paint the landscape they
knew best.



William Forsyth
The Bridge, 1927
oil on board
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
Forsyth's home in Irvington was bounded by
Pleasant Run Parkway on the north. During
the summer months he offered a class in
outdoor painting, which included work along
Pleasant Run Creek. This painting gives some
sense of the creek and its woodland setting.
Forsyth painted some of his most colorful
landscapes during the latter part of his career
that are reminiscent of the post-impressionist
style. The colors, that appear to have been
applied straight from the tube, are used not to
define the landscape but to create a striking
William Forsyth
Road to Vernon, 1891
oil on canvas, mounted on board
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
In 1891 Forsyth was teaching with Steele at
the Indiana School of Art. Both spent the
summer months painting near Vernon,
Indiana. While Steele's work during this
period emphasized drawing and structure,
Forsyth's canvases were more loosely
constructed. Road to Vernon exemplifies the
artist's vigorous brushstroke and his tendency
to loosely delineate forms. The landscape is
indicated with dabs of green and yellow paint,
dense areas of blue and touches of white. The
man and his horses are rendered with just a
few strokes of the artist's brush.
William Forsyth
Untitled (Alice Picking Flowers),
about 1900
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
In 1897 Forsyth married one of his students,
Alice Atkinson, and eventually settled in the
village of Irvington on the outskirts of
Indianapolis. The couple filled their backyard
with huge flowerbeds. Gardening was a
pastime that the artist and his wife loved.
Alice is shown here picking flowers from an
array of pastel blooms. Beyond the cultivated
area, separated by a fence, is a big open field
where small animals dot the landscape. The
entire floral garden is a mass of broad
brushstrokes mingled with dots of color, while
the middle ground is painted with rapid
strokes. Forsyth, using animated brushwork
and a rich color scheme, captures the natural
beauty of the landscape that he loved.
William Forsyth
Untitled (Woods and Stream), 1899
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
A newspaper critic once said Forsyth's work
was "Strongly drawn, good in color, full of
character and fresh qualities...." Forsyth had
a dramatic flair for color evident in this
untitled landscape created during the period
when he was working in Brookville, Indiana.
The jagged rocks, broken limbs, twisted roots
and sparkling stream lead to a landscape filled
with vivid areas of pure color enhanced by
bright sunlight. Forsyth's canvas is a richly
textured and vibrantly painted view of the
Hoosier countryside.
Theodore Clement Steele
Among the Hills, No. 2, 1913
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
The year this work was painted T. C. Steele
was elected an associate member of the
National Academy of Design in New York.
This was no small feat for a midwestern artist
whose subject was Indiana landscapes that
primarily focused on the area around his
Brown County home. Steele's House of the
Singing Winds may have been isolated from
close neighbors, but down the road there were
other dwellings. Here, people can be seen
walking along the path near a church.
Outlines of a few houses stand out in sharp
contrast to the freely painted landscape. The
sunlit path, white steeple, red roof and
vibrantly colored foliage are all a part of
Steele's interpretation of the impressionist


Theodore Clement Steele
The Clam Diggers, 1904
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
Clam Diggers most likely represents the
Pacific coast at Newport, Oregon, an area the
artist is known to have visited. The resort of
Newport on Yaquina Bay was a fishing town
filled with picturesque scenery. Vacationers
digging for clams at low tide were depicted on
several of Steele's canvases. Painted in soft
tonalities dominated by shades of blue, The
Clam Diggers captures this typical oceanside
activity. Steele wrote of this area, "The air
seems to vibrate with flashes of colored light,
rose and violet, red and blue and orange...with
a vividness and intensiveness I have never seen
Theodore Clement Steele
The House of the Singing Winds, 1908
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
In 1907, Steele purchased over two hundred
acres in the hills of Brown County, Indiana
and began building a studio-home there. In
the summer, he married his second wife Selma
Neubacher. They took up residence in the
new home they named House of the Singing
Winds. The dwelling and its surrounding area
immediately became the subject of Steele's
paintings. This canvas is an early rendering
of the rustic bungalow that Steele made
several additions to during the nineteen years
he and his wife lived there. The painting
shows the heavily-wooded area around the
house and the steep road that was its only
access. The noise made by the wind blowing
through the screened porch that extended
along three sides gave the house its name.
Theodore Clement Steele
Morning -- the Sheep, 1894
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
In 1886 Steele made his first excursion to
Vernon in rural Indiana to paint the
landscape. By 1894, the year following the
Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the
artist's first view of French impressionist
paintings, Steele entered what has been
described as his "white period" which exhibits
Monet's influence. Steele's paintings of
Vernon during the 1893 and 1894 seasons
display a noticeably brighter color scheme in
which blues, purples, and reds are diffused by
bright sunlight. Morning -- the Sheep is most
likely a scene in Vernon painted during one of
Steele's last trips to the area. It exhibits the
higher key palette and the dominant use of
white and blue that characterizes Steele's
early exploration of the impressionist style.


Theodore Clement Steele
Munich Haying, about 1884
oil on canvas, mounted on board
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
In 1880 T. C. Steele traveled to Munich to
enroll at the Royal Academy. The academy's
curriculum focused primarily on figurative
work. An artist who was interested in
pursuing landscape painting had to do it on
his own time, usually during the summer
months. Steele's work at the academy is
characterized by an attention to detail and a
somber palette limited to dull green, gray and
brown. His landscapes painted under the
influence of Frank Currier, an American artist
who had remained in Munich after his student
days, were more loosely painted. Although
Steele's landscapes were still primarily murky
in color, he occasionally used brighter hues in
scenes like Munich Haying, which was
completed the year before he returned to


Theodore Clement Steele
Untitled (Brown County Indiana
Landscape with Path and Trees), 1909
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
This painting of the area around Steele's home
in Brown County includes the road that leads
to the residence, looking away from the house
into the dense forest surrounding it. Bright
oranges, yellows and rich browns dominate
the canvas. The use of white on several of the
tree trunks adds a vibrant touch to this
autumnal landscape. The Steeles spent the
spring, summer and part of the fall in their
Brown County home and the winter in
Theodore Clement Steele
Whitewater River, Brookville, 1904
oil on canvas
Lilly Endowment Inc. Collection
J. Ottis Adams and T. C. Steele purchased a
house in Brookville, Indiana in 1889 that
became known as the Hermitage. The home
was situated on the East Fork of the
Whitewater River, which served as the subject
of many of the artists' paintings. In Steele's
landscape the Whitewater River is a narrow
waterway in the foreground of the painting set
against dense yellow-green foliage, purple
hills and a clear blue sky. The banks of the
river become a focal point because white
dominates the color scheme. On the left in
the middle of the foliage a stroke of white
draws the viewer's eye into the canvas.

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