A look inside TC Steele’s historic Brown County home

(WISH Photo)
(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)  WISH-TV is celebrating Indiana’s Bicentennial with one of its most well known and revered artists, Theodore Clement Steele or TC as he is known.

Steele died in 1926, his home, his studio and dozens of his best known paintings are on display in Brown County. All of it a gift from his widow, who made sure, Steele’s work is never forgotten.

It sits on 211 acres just outside Nashville Indiana. The land, the gardens, the home, the studio that Indiana artist TC Steele and his wife Selma developed, nourished and cherished.  Preserved as it was when it was willed to the state of Indiana by Steele’s widow Selma in 1945, it is a state historic site open to anyone who wants to get a glimpse of Steele’s Indiana.

In the will, Selma said that not a single acre of the property can be sold or developed.  The Steele home, built in 1907, is known as the House of the Singing Winds. It got it’s name from the special windows that were installed in the front sleeping porch as a way to keep cool during hot Hoosier summer nights.

The wind would come whipping up the hill the house sits on. It would vibrate the metal screens, and it had a distinct humming sound like music. There are 350 TC Steele paintings at the home site, and Selma’s will forbids any of them from being sold either. And she stipulated the house must remain intact as it was when she gave it to the state.

“He and the artists of his generation were really the first artist that Indiana had coming out of that frontier era. They were the ones that sort of laid the foundations for Indiana art,” said Andrea deTarnowsky the property manager of the Steele historic site.

One of Steele’s passions was landscapes.

“In his early years, Steele was associated with four other artists known together as the Hoosier group. They were a distinct regional school of landscape majors,” says deTarnowsky.

While landscapes are what Steele is known for now, in his day, he was just as well known for painting portraits.

“Portraits were how he made his living. Portraits were bread and butter.  And in fact, today he’s so closely linked with landscape painting, a lot of people overlook his portraiture,” says deTarnowsky.

If you head to the T.C. Steele Historic Site near Nashville you can see both portraits and landscapes. It’s a glimpse into the world of early Indiana. A world Steele loved to paint on the Brown County property he first found in 1906 while hiking with a friend. You can see it in the painting that is the most reproduced of all his works. It’s called Selma in the garden.

Says a tour guide at the house, “People are drawn to it because of the garden scene and because Selma is visible working in the garden. It’s also in front of the historic house of the singing winds,” said a tour guide at the Steele home.

Steele’s home can still be toured today. The T.C. Steele Historic Site is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. -5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 – 5 p.m. It is closed Mondays and some holidays.