Medium 9780253008527

Painting Indiana III: Heritage of Place

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The work of T. C. Steele, William Forsyth, J. Ottis Adams, Otto Stark, and Richard Gruelle, known collectively as the Hoosier Group, established plein air ("in the open air") painting as a major art form in Indiana. The vitality of this style is represented in Painting Indiana III: Heritage of Place which includes 100 juried works by current Indiana plein air artists, along with paintings by the Hoosier Group, all featuring notable Indiana landmarks. This richly illustrated book will delight Hoosiers and art lovers around the world.

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7 Chapters

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1 - A Condensed History of Landscape Painting

ePub

We artists live ideally
We breed our firmest facts of air:
We make our own reality—
We dream a thing and it is so.
The fairest scenes we ever see
Are images of memory:
The sweetest thoughts we ever know
We plagiarize from Long Ago.

—JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY, “ORLIE WILDE” (1916)

The fine art of painting landscapes, for the sole purpose of recreating pleasing natural scenery, has been pursued in America for fewer than 175 years. Beginning in the 1850s, the Hudson River School painters created idealized depictions of nature, aesthetically influenced by romanticism. Like their contemporaries, American writers Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), the visual artists revered our country's unspoiled beauty, believing that God was manifested in nature.

Reflecting early American exploration and colonization, Hudson River School artists often depicted humans existing in harmony with nature. Paintings by Thomas Cole (1801–1848), the credited founder of the art movement, were the first to feature the Hudson Valley's splendor and disappearing wilderness, particularly in autumn.

 

2 - The First Generation of Hoosier Plein Air Painters

ePub

During the state of Indiana's Golden Age of Culture, in the 1880s and 1890s, Hoosiers led the country in creative trends. The Hoosier Group painters were working at the same time as nationally read Indiana writers James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916), George Aid (1866–1944), Meredith Nicholson (1866–1947), and Booth Tarkington (1869–1946). The visual artists' enthusiastic belief that their state was “as beautiful, characteristic and worthy of being interpreted as anything else in the world”1 helped to promote a tradition of landscape painting that has influenced local artists and collectors for generations.

T. C. Steele, William Forsyth, and J. Ottis Adams's interest in plein air painting had become focused in the early 1880s under the guidance of J. Frank Currier (1843–1909) during their summers away from rigorous studies at the Royal Academy of Art in Munich. While living in the village of Schleissheim, the Indiana students spent their days tramping the moors and attempting to depict the German scenery. Some of Steele's most elegant value studies and Forsyth's most gestural and thickly painted canvases are from these early sojourns.

 

3 - The Second Generation of Hoosier Plein Air Painters

ePub

When he sold his portion of the Hermitage in Brookville to J. Ottis Adams in 1906, T. C. Steele had already identified his new painting ground. After exploring the rugged appeal of Brown County, he'd discovered more than sixty acres for sale on a hilltop near Belmont, between Nashville and Bloomington. He bought the land and hired a local builder, William Quick, to construct his new studio home.

While overseeing the work, Steele had an unexpected visitor. Despite the isolation of his wilderness home site, an artist named Adolph R. Shulz (1869–1963) showed up one spring day in 1907 to meet him and see his building project. “He [Shulz] was immensely pleased with Brown County, and this region especially,” Steele wrote to his wife-to-be, Selma Neubacher (1870–1945), “and said if he could find a place to board, he might bring his family and spend the summer. Some day artists will come to this county. So possibly you and I will be pioneers to blaze the way for future artists.”1

 

4 - Recent History of Plein Air Painting in Indiana

ePub

T. C. Steele's home and studio, preserved as a State Historic Site, are open to the public throughout each year. To celebrate the artist's September 11 birthday, the Site sponsored the first Great Outdoor Art Contest in 1988 to encourage artists to paint on location. Several of the artists who continue to paint outdoors admit to having their first plein air experience at one of the Steele Site's outdoor art contests.

This initial “paint-out” in Indiana became an annual tradition and spawned other similar events throughout the state. One of the most significant and enduring paint-outs, the First Brush of Spring, established in 1999 in New Harmony, Indiana, attracts plein air painters nationally and currently boasts more than $6,000 in award money. The event kicks off the Hoosier painting season each April. Other annual paint-outs occur in Wabash, Culver, Lake Wawasee, Hanover, Indianapolis, Brookville, Edinburgh, Crawfordsville, and Richmond, among other towns. The T. C. Steele State Historic Site also sponsors a spring outdoor art contest in addition to their fall event.

 

5 - The Current Plein Air Painting Phenomenon

ePub

Amateur artists as well as professionals, in the twentieth century, found challenge and enjoyment in attempting to capture scenes on canvas or paper outdoors. One of the most famous amateur artists in the 1940s was the prime minister of England, Sir Winston Churchill. To relieve stress from strategizing during World War II, Churchill applied brush to canvas for the first time at age forty-one. He created more than 500 oil paintings over the next forty-five years, receiving positive criticism in the press.

The plein air painting movement has burgeoned in the past three decades, not only in Indiana but also throughout the country. Many state and local organizations have been established, including Arizona, Bay of Fundy, Blue Ridge, California, California of the North, Charlotte, Chicago, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Four Corners, Genesee Valley, Georgia, Great Lakes, Hawaii, Iowa, Laguna, Michigan, Mid-Atlantic, Missouri, Monterey Bay, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Niagara Frontier, North Woods, Ocala (Florida), Oregon, Pikes Peak, Rancocas Valley, Rocky Mountain, Sacramento, Snake River, Southeast, the North, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West, Western North Carolina, Western Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

 

6 - The Future of Plein Air Painting

ePub

Painting en plein air is certainly not new. However, the recent phenomena of plein air painting groups and events described in chapter 5 indicate a movement of significance as a result of the painting method's popularity and associated revenue. Professional artists who have become established in the national plein air community enjoy sufficient demand for their paintings to command prices as high as $50,000 for the best known,1 as well as income from teaching workshops, producing books or videos, and giving lectures and demonstrations. With the large number of amateur plein air painters, those who make a living from their artwork and related activities have more opportunities to conduct traveling workshops and sell their work to loyal followers.

Although every artist develops his or her own voice, or individual style, most plein air paintings fit into the categories of realism or neo-Impressionism. The paintings reflect the artists' responses to nature, and part of their appeal for viewers is their recognizable atmosphere, mood, and actual physical characteristics of a familiar place. For many artists, the paintings are especially meaningful because they capture an experience. They call up memories of the gentle breezes, trilling birds, burbling brooks, and caring companions that were present during the creation of the work.

 

Gallery of Paintings with Artists' Captions

ePub

with Artists' Captions

All dimensions are vertical first, then horizontal.

 

House of the Singing Winds with Pergola
(Brown County)
by Todd A. Williams
oil

12" × 16"

With the historical significance of Brown County and the artists that colonized that area in the early 1900s, it became an obvious location of interest for me. T. C. Steele's home, the House of the Singing Winds, was at the top of my list. To paint in the footsteps of T. C. Steele was a dream come true.

 

Tunnel
(Wayne County)
by Wyatt LeGrand
oil

18" × 24"

Bridges are odd things to paint. I think it's funny how I always end up chopping off the roadway running off the opposing sides of the bridge. Without the road, path, or railway, what use is the bridge? Maybe I'm painting bridges like they're tunnels. I'm more interested in the objects they span than the destinations they connect.

 

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