Early Indiana art scene

The mid to late 19th century saw a flourishing of art in Indiana—poets, novelists, visual artists. The Indianapolis Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition of visual artists with a nod to the famous Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley. (The exhibit includes a portrait of Riley done by T.C. Steele.)

The exhibit is small but focuses on artists important from 1877 to 1902. In 1877, the first art academy in Indiana, modeled on those of Europe, was established in downtown Indianapolis. It closed in 1879 for financial reasons, but made its mark on Hoosier artists who seemed to form a bond whether they were part of the local art club (Bohe Club), the famous Hoosier Group of impressionist landscape painters, or scattered among artist enclaves in the US and Europe.

The nexus of early Hoosier art was not limited to Indianapolis or even Brown County, whose rural beauty drew artists such as Steele and Baumann. Richmond in eastern Indiana boasted its own vibrant colony of artists, the Richmond Group (as opposed to the Hoosier Group).

Some of the artists represented in the exhibit include: James F. Gookins, John Washington Love, William Merritt Chase, Janet Scudder, John Ottis Adams, William Forsyth, T.C. Steele, John Elwood Bundy, and Otis Stark.

My favorite painting in the exhibit was by a member of the Richmond Group—John Elwood Bundy. His Monarch Beach catches the beauty of a forest undergoing its fall transformation.

Exhibit ongoing at the Indianapolis Museum of Art through May 18, 2017.


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