Indiana Art and Architecture
In the late 1940s my mother bought a painting from Frank Rudolf Humpal (1895-1948), an American Impressionist landscape painter who was born in
Chicago but went to Brown County, Indiana, with his brother in 1917, where he met Theodore C. Steele, a well known portrait painter who had in 1907 bought
an abandoned farm and built a house on a hilltop with spectacular views overlooking the surrounding landscapes. Steele's home and studio became a magnet
drawing other artists to Brown County where they continued the tradition of painting en plein aire for which the French Impressionists were so well known.
By 1920 Humpal married a young lady from Brown County and eventually bought a house with his brother that he used during his extended stays in
the area. Humpal had studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts at the Chicago Art Institute between 1915 and 1920 under Frederick Fursman, who himself had
studied in Paris. During those years Alson Clark was also an influential instructor. Humpal joined the Art Institute as a Life member in 1934, and exhibited his work
at the annual exhibits held there in 1936, 1941 and 1946. The painting my mother bought, probably at the 50th Annual Exhibition of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1946,
now hangs in my living room:
Even though I have enjoyed seeing this painting ever since I was born, I never knew who Frank Humpal was until a few years ago when I bought a small
landscape painting by a minor French Impressionist, August Jean-Baptist Roubille, who is mostly known for his commercial art, but who painted with
Bonnard among others. I looked him up on the internet and discovered a website offering biographical information about artists. It occurred to me that
I might look up the painter of the painting in my living room. The result was my introduction to the fascinating history of the artists colony that flourished
in Brown County, Indiana, during the first half of the 20th century that included such luminaries as Adolf Shulz, T. C. Steele, Gustave Bauman, Will Vawter,
and Frank Humpal, among others. Because of his sudden and early death in 1948, Humpal's work was not well known until the 1980s when his second wife
and daughter offered their collection of his work at two exhibits in Seattle, Washington, at a gallery specializing in American painting of the 19th and 20th
centuries. Finding only fragmentary but tantalizing information about Humpal on the internet, I decided to visit Brown County to see if I could learn more
about him and the artist colony of the early 20th century. My brief visit was a success in every way and convinced me that I must return to spend more time
in the area to visit the important collections of Brown County artists on permanent display at Indiana University at Bloomington, the Indiana State Museum
of Art, and in the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
In the mean time I can offer these images of the Brown County, Indiana, home and studio of Theodore Clement Steele (1847-1926), now maintained as a museum
by the State Museum of Indiana system.
T. C. Steel Home and Studio