IBJNews

State museum uncovers hidden Steele painting

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana State Museum has just discovered a painting by famous Hoosier artist T.C. Steele that, oddly, has been in its possession for more than 65 years, museum officials announced Wednesday.

The unusual find occurred when the museum, which boasts the largest collection of Steele paintings in the country, shipped one of the late Indiana artist’s works to suburban Chicago to be cleaned by an art conservator.

After taking the canvas painting, titled “The Old Garden,” off its frame to be restretched, conservator Barry Bauman found, to his amazement, another painting directly beneath it.

“It was like a King Tut discovery, for me,” he said. “I’ve been conserving paintings for 40 years, and it’s never happened to me. I’ve never heard of it happening to any other conservator. That’s how unique this is.”

Museum officials unveiled the painting privately to major donors on Monday evening before taking it to Steele’s former home and studio in bucolic Brown County south of Indianapolis for a public showing Wednesday afternoon.

Steele, who died in 1926 at the age of 78, was an American Impressionist painter known for his Indiana landscapes. He is considered the most important of a cluster of Indiana artists known as The Hoosier Group.

His second wife, Selma Neubacher Steele, donated more than 300 of Steele’s works to the state of Indiana shortly before her death in 1945.

The painting is dated 1890 and is a landscape piece, depicting a couple of buildings and a clock tower. A small, female figure wearing a red bonnet could be Steele’s daughter, Daisy, who was featured in a few of Steele's paintings, said Kathi Moore, the museum’s communications director.

The museum is trying to determine the location of the painting.

“No one has been able to identify those buildings,” Moore said, “so it’s kind of a mystery.”

Curt Churchman, a collector of Indiana art who operates Fine Estate Art & Rugs in Broad Ripple, said an 18-inch-by-24-inch painting by Steele from that time would probably bring $50,000 to $100,000 if it were sold on the open market.

“It’s a good period for Steele," said Churchman, who sold a Steele painting last year for $75,000. “He was at the top of his form.”

Steele had returned from Munich in 1885, five years before finishing the newly discovered painting, and was working in Indianapolis between sojourns to Indiana communities such as Brookville, Metamora, Spencer and Vernon.

What’s more unusual about the painting, however, is that it’s dated three years later (1890) than the one (1887) that was covering it.
 
“Initially you think, this is impossible—why would an artist cover one of his paintings?” Bauman said. “He may have put two paintings on one stretcher to conserve them. You just don’t know.”

Bauman, a former associate conservator for the Art Institute of Chicago, has been restoring paintings without charge the past nine years and has finished 60 for the state museum.

The Steele painting has not been known to exist at least for the past 86 years. His widow authenticated his paintings after his death and unknowingly authenticated the back of the “new” painting, identifying it as “The Old Garden” stretched over the top.

Experts say it’s doubtful she knew there were two canvasses on the stretcher.

“I was just completely taken aback when I saw what I had discovered,” Bauman said. “For the museum to have another acquisition like this is just incredible.”

The museum has yet to name the painting.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Better than Vonnegut
    I know it is all the rage to feature Kurt Vonnegut as the archetype for Indiana creativity, but his penchant for signing his name as a sphincter leaves me thinking that T.C. Steele is a MUCH better figure to promote for emulation to our children. Love the idea of rotating Steele's work thru the schools.
  • Aweikert@gmail.com
    James,
    This article clearly states that this piece belongs to the ISM not the IMA. I'm sure it was an honest mistake but one that unfortunately happens all too often to the ISM.
    Congratulations on your good fortune ISM.
  • connect it to history
    I believe it is true that Steele's wife was once the superintendent of the Indianapolis Public Schools, when he was actively painting. And also that because of this some of our schools own and exhibit a Steele painting. I think (of course this idea is too late until the fall term) that the painting could travel to some of the schools for a special lesson/exhibition in art/history and let each school's students then submit an appropriate name for the painting, from which the museum could choose. When displayed at the museum, the school's name could also be displayed as the namer. So some rich person doesn't get to name it after his kid or car or something.
  • Let the community name the painting
    I think it would be an incredible fundraiser to let individuals submit names for the painting for a donation (pay per vote) or to get a major donor to make a on-time donation in exchange for the right to name the painting - and help support IMA.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!

ADVERTISEMENT