In celebration of the state’s bicentennial, the Indiana State Museum is showcasing 200 years of Indiana art. The exhibit actually spans more than the 200 years that Indiana has been a state, starting with the earliest known drawing done in Indiana (a drawing by Colonel Henry Hamilton in 1778) and ending with a sculpture made specifically for the exhibit (a limestone sculpture by Dale Enochs). The exhibit does a good job of covering the different artistic groups, styles, and mediums from Indiana.
I recognized a number of artists from other exhibits and collections and was introduced to many more. 200 Years of Indiana Art includes ten of the nineteen artists in the bicentennial exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art: Robert Indiana, David Smith, Garo Antreasian, Felrath Hines, Jacob Cox, George Winter, William Merritt Chase, the Overbeck sisters, Janet Payne-Bowles, and Frank Hohenberger.
The exhibit also includes a few of Guastave Baumann’s works; last year the Indianapolis Museum of Art hosted an exhibit devoted to Baumann. And the exhibit displays a quilt designed and made by Marie Webster. A collection of her quilts is currently on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, running until January 8, 2017.
200 Years of Indiana Art covers different artist colonies and groups around the state. The Richmond Group started in the 1870s and actually predated the better known Hoosier Group. Richmond and the environs contained many Quakers who migrated from North Carolina (for example, Levi Coffin). John Elwood Bundy, known as “the Dean”, founded the Richmond Art Association of 1898. The exhibit introduced me to the wonderfully ethereal paintings of Maude Kaufman Eggemeyer.
In 1894, art critic Harmlin Garland christened several Indiana artists as The Hoosier Group. Members T.C. Steele and William Forsyth were involved in the Indiana School of Art, which continues today as the Herron School of Art at IUPUI. In 1922, T.C. Steele was given an honorary degree from Indiana University and even had an open studio in the school’s library building (Franklin Hall).
T.C. Steele was also known as the central figure in the Brown County Art Colony in the early 1900s. Many Indiana and regional artists passed through Brown County, staying for shorter or longer times or returning sporadically over the years to paint the rolling hills and ruralness of the area.
Another art club sprang up in the southeast of the state, the Wonderland Way Art Club. Founded by James Russell in 1906, the club convened in his store as a place for camaraderie and to discuss art. The club disbanded in 1937, the year when he died.
In 1925, daughters of Indiana living in Chicago organized the Hoosier Salon, an exhibit of Indiana arts held in Marshall Field’s. The Hoosier Salon became an annual exhibit. In 1942, the exhibit was relocated to Indianapolis, first at the Block department store, then at the L.S. Ayres department store, the Indiana State Museum, and now at the Indiana Historical Society.
200 Years of Indiana Art also touches on more modern artistic movements like American Regionalism and Avant Garde. A few of the modern pieces stood out to me. Forest Frost, a 1953 color lithograph by Garo Antreasian, who left for Los Angeles in 1960, drew me in with its dark, nighttime colors. Nocturne Contours XXIV, a blue pot with lid, by Les Miley, a Professor Emeritus from the University of Evansville was striking. Porcelain and Lemons (1986) by Frederik Ebbesen Grue, who unfortunately died young in 1995, is a stunning piece. The realism of Still Life with White Lilies and Pears by Jacqueline Gnott, a watercolor that looks deceptively like a photo, is a masterpiece.
200 Years of Indiana Art is a wonderful exhibit of Indiana art, both on its own or as a complement to other bicentennial celebrations and special exhibits. You may have encountered some of these artists before or will run across them in future exhibits throughout the state and over the years. This exhibit runs from March 19 through October 2, 2016.