Theodore Clement Steele

Born: 9/22/1847
Birthplace: Owen County, Ind.

Steele was born on a farm, but when he was four years old his family moved to Waveland, Ind., where he attended Waveland Academy. In 1870, after having studied briefly in Cincinnati and Chicago, he moved to Battle Creek, Mich., and began working as a portrait painter. Three years later he moved to Indianapolis, maintaining a studio there until 1880. In that year he went abroad for more intensive training at the Royal Academy of Art in Munich, Germany.

After his return to Indianapolis in 1885, Steele opened his studio again and began taking commissions for portraits, including one for Indiana governor Albert Gallatin Porter. Over the years, Steele painted the likeness of President Benjamin Harrison and many other prominent people. Steele also painted Impressionist landscapes; reportedly he had his first glimpse of French Impressionist paintings at the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, and they influenced him greatly.

In 1907 Steele and his second wife, Selma Neubacher Steele, purchased property in Brown County and built a summer house there. Known as “Singing Winds,” the house contained a large studio for the artist and featured several acres of gardens. From 1907 to 1921 the couple wintered in Indianapolis until Steele became (1922) artist in residence at the University of Indiana and they established a home in Bloomington. The Singing Winds house is now a State Historic Site.

Died: 7/24/1926