William J. Forsyth: The Life and Work of an Indiana Artist

William J. Forsyth: The Life and Work of an Indiana Artist

William J. Forsyth: The Life and Work of an Indiana Artist

William J. Forsyth: The Life and Work of an Indiana Artist


Closely associated with artists such as T. C. Steele and J. Ottis Adams, William J. Forsyth studied at the Royal Academy in Munich then returned home to paint what he knew best--the Indiana landscape. It proved a rewarding subject. His paintings were exhibited nationally and received major awards. With full-color reproductions of Forsyth's most important paintings and previously unpublished photographs of the artist and his work, this book showcases Forsyth's fearless experiments with artistic styles and subjects. Drawing on his personal letters and other sources, Rachel Berenson Perry discusses Forsyth and his art and offers fascinating insights into his personality, his relationships with his students, and his lifelong devotion to teaching and educating the public about the importance of art.


William Forsyth was my grandfather. I am his only grandchild. I never knew this man, as he had died twelve years before I was born. and yet, looking back over some sixty-plus years, I realize that he has been an almost constant presence. of course, his art has always been there, filling the walls of every home I have ever lived in. But it is more than the art. It is the stories about him that were told and the almost reverential tone for him that seemed to imbue those stories, especially when told by any member of the Forsyth family.

Certainly my Grandmother Forsyth’s house (I will always think of it as her house, and it truly was her house, as she was the sole owner) was full of the presence of my grandfather. It was basically unchanged during the years between his death in 1935 and her death in 1963, after which it was sold and torn down. His paintings lined the walls of every room, and unframed canvases even hung from the chair rail in the little music room. More of his paintings stood in stacks against the bookshelves in the library. Those shelves were filled with his books of literature, poetry, and history, many in German from his years of living in Munich as a student and working artist. His collection of beautiful vases, many hand-painted, lined the fireplace mantle in the living room and shelves in the dining room windows. Even the dining room table bore the burn marks of his cigarettes and small streaks of varnish from his brushes. Several of his Japanese-inspired painted screens were scattered throughout the house as well. a few of his clothes still hung in one of my grandmother’s closets.

Even out in the yard were the rose beds he had tended and the old grape vines that still grew in the arbor. the very trees and flowers that grew in the yard when I played there as a child had been incorporated into so very many of his paintings done right there. As I recall, nearly everything in the house and the yard seemed to have some link to my grandfather.

There was, of course, his studio, a large one-room building that stood next to the house. That studio was kept locked except when my aunt Constance Forsyth was home in the summers and used it for her own studio. That was when I was allowed in.

In addition to the stacks and stacks of paintings that circled the room, it was hung ceiling to floor with my grandfather’s paintings. There were easels and painting boards and my grandfather’s huge etching press that my aunt Connie used every summer. Packets of his pigments were in the cupboards along the north wall, and on top of those cupboards under the large north windows were sculpted heads by my grandfather, as well as jars full of his paint brushes, pallet knives, and many other tools. There were even a couple of his painted screens used as room dividers in the studio.

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