Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Fine Art of Our Daily Lives

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Fine Art of Our Daily Lives

Article excerpt

Impressionist art has appealed to me from a very young age, and I recall spending precious allowance money during high school (you can imagine what other urgent needs were sacrificed) on art museum prints of works by Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, among others. The light that seemed to radiate from even those flat poster reproductions could transport me in a glance from a Rochester, N.Y., winter to a warm garden pool in Giverny or a summer park along the Seine. Again and again, all for a few dollars.

Not long after moving to south-central Indiana in the mid-1970s, I discovered Theodore Clement Steele, the Hoosier state's most famous resident artist, and a devotee of Impressionism himself. Steele was born in 1847 in neighboring Owen County (locally known as Sweet Owen county). His early works, heavily influenced by training in Germany, and derivative of the dark, dramatic style of the Munich School, were not terribly appealing to me.

But once back in Indiana, he began to wander the hills of Brown County and to set up his easel out of doors. His palette lightened and brightened as he came into his own, heartfelt style of plein- air painting. As an observer of the times noted, "He has a greater love for a beech tree than for a castle."

Steele's wife, Selma, put it this way: "We felt and believed that here in this hill country were evidences of a character in the outdoors than would command of us our best and finest spirit." The Steeles built and resided in a ridge-top home they called the House of the Singing Winds, which today is a state historic site. An unfinished painting of garden peonies rests on Steele's easel.

A number of accomplished artists followed Steele's example and settled in to paint the area. Known as the Brown County Colony, the artists were captivated by the soft quality of light playing on the hilly rural landscape, and most set out to capture it.

Charlie and I occupy a ridge top too, and we know all about the delicious ways winds sing and light plays on our own woodlands and pastures. …

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