Heartland Art: Selections from Your Indiana Collection

May 1, 2010 - February 13, 2011



Wall panels for the exhibition

The creative expressions of Hoosiers are varied. Some seem familiar while some challenge or even shock. This exhibit traces 175 years of Indiana art making and includes works created here and elsewhere by Indiana natives. From early portraits of our Statesmen to abstract impressions of the 21st century, Indiana's history and culture are discovered through the eyes of our own artists.
Indiana art is a mirror of American art. Hoosier artists have explored Realist and conceptual styles including Post-impressionism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
As you explore this exhibit, take a moment to study works that you might normally dismiss. Art is communication. The messages these artists have worked to convey may surprise, delight, or provoke, but all try to connect you to the artist's message.
John Ottis Adams William Forsyth
Richard Buckner Gruelle Otto Stark
Theodore Clement Steele
In the early-1880s, several Indiana artists sought training abroad. Though art schools were available in Indiana and many artists had left for study in New York, but true success required European training. While Paris was the center of the art world in the 19th century, it was very expensive. Munich, on the other hand, offered a less expensive education. That and the Indiana's Germanic roots led most of the state's young painters there.
Surprisingly, these painters chose to come back to Indiana after their studies instead of migrating to cities in the eastern United States, where the art market was more profitable. Upon their return, they transformed Indiana art.
T.C. Steele, J. Ottis Adams, William Forsyth, and Otto Stark were accomplished artists, skilled in modern techniques and, most significantly, the idea of painting en plein air, or out in the open. These painters, joined by Richard Gruelle, became the loudest proponents of this new style of painting in the Midwest and were widely considered the most significant regional school in the country.
Beginning in the early 1900s, Chicago artist Adolph Shulz and fellow artists made exploratory trips to the county seat of Nashville. When the Illinois Central railroad added tracks through the rugged terrain in 1905, Shulz spread the word to his Chicago compatriots that "ideal painting grounds" were less than a day's travel from the windy city.
Noted Hoosier Group impressionist T.C. Steele constructed his Brown County home in 1907. He named it "The House of the Singing Winds." Explaining their move to this remote area, his wife Selma declared, "We felt and believed that here in this hill country were evidences of a character in the outdoors that would command of us our best and finest spirit."
Attracted by the scenic hills and rural subjects, and delighted with the low cost of living, more than 25 artists arrived in Nashville in 1908. The hospitable Pittman Inn provided room and board, eliminating domestic chores for summer outdoor painting enthusiasts. When his inn was full, Bill Pittman found nearby rooms and cabins for the artists to rent. By 1935, 18 artists were calling Brown County their permanent home.


(above: Robert Selby (1909-1997), Dairy Barn, Oil on board, 1958. Donated by Susan Forsyth Selby Sklar)


(above: Otto Stark (1859-1926), Hollyhocks, Oil on canvas, c. 1900. Indiana State Museum Collection)


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For biographical information on artists referenced above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

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