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"Painting Indiana", Then and Now

In the early 1900’s a group of five Indiana painters captured the world’s attention. These painters were dedicated to reflecting “nature’s truth” in Indiana’s beauty, and their dream sparked an important movement in Hoosier art. This group was known as the “Hoosier Group”, and included Indiana natives T.C. Steele, John Ottis Adams, William Forsythe, Otto Starke and Richard Gruelle.

Today, “Painting Indiana: Portraits of Indiana’s 92 Counties” has been presented by the Indiana Plein Air Painters Association, Inc. This group of paintings is on display at the Indiana State Museum, and is accompanied by a book.

When the Hoosier Group began, this “plein air”, or out in the open, style of painting was new to the art world, as most artists of the day painted in studios without the play of natural light. Today, the Indiana Plein Air PaintersAssociation, Inc., has followed this tradition, and brings us a beautiful depiction of Indiana landscapes. The artists in this group are Dan Woodson, Don Russell, Lyle Denney and Robert Eberle.

Painting by: Lyle Denney
Wayne County, "A Street in Richmond"
Oil on Canvas 18" x 27"
used with permission by Indiana Plein Air Painters Association
The Hoosier Group: Indiana’s Early Painters
Before introducing the “Painting Indiana” artists, we will provide a look at The Hoosier Group.

A group of art students at the Indiana School of Art had been inspired to study abroad. They raised the money they needed, and together with their families set sail for Germany in 1880. T.C. Steele and Samuel Richards had both grown up in Owen County, and Ottis Adams was raised in Amity, in Johnson County. They had met William Forsyth at art school. They studied together in Munich for a time, but each developed his own interests and strengths, and pursued them in his own way.

Over time they all enjoyed success, and traveled to international exhibits. But there was something about their art that seemed to connect them. When they returned to Indiana after being separated, they had a deeper appreciation of what they called “nature’s truth” in the beauty of Indiana.

Together they dreamed of developing a recognizable Hoosier art form. They reasoned that if an art movement could develop in Norway or Holland, why not in America? Why not in Indiana?

T.C. Steele had grown to love nature and, enjoyed painting “en plein air”, or outdoors. Some of his greatest works were done en plein air, including The Oaks of Vernon, which he painted over ten evenings. It was said, “He has a greater love for a beech tree than for a castle”.

In 1896 their dreams started to become reality. They were dubbed “The Hoosier Group” after a Chicago exhibit. At the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 they received their greatest distinction as a group, where their Indiana art was given its own building. Indiana was the only state represented at the World’s Fair with its own building. They brought beautiful scenes of Metamora, Brookville, Vernon, Prairie Dell and Muncie to the world’s attention.

Painting by: Dan Woodson
Parke County, "Mansfield Roller Mill"
Oil on Canvas 24" x 36"
used with permission by Indiana Plein Air Painters Association
The Hoosier Group had fulfilled their mission to capture the beauty of their Indiana homeland, and to portray it to the world.

In 1989 The Hoosier Group had a resurgence of popularity, when “The Passage” was released. This exhibit traveled to Cologne Germany and back to Indianapolis. The book that accompanied the exhibit also helped reintroduce them to the public.

“Painting Indiana”
Today we are fortunate to see firsthand the introduction of a new group of Indiana painters. Following the tradition of The Hoosier Group, these five artists bring all ninety-two Indiana counties to life.

The artists are all members of Indiana Plein Air Painters Association, which promotes outdoor landscape painting. These artists spent 1998 and 1999 traveling throughout the state, each having different counties to depict. These paintings give us a glimpse of Indiana landscapes today, at the turn of the twenty-first century.

The paintings are on exhibit at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis until April 22nd, 2000. After that they will be divided into smaller groupings for traveling exhibits throughout the state - making it possible for thousands more people to enjoy.

Seeing the entire collection first-hand is an opportunity that should not be missed. Every painting is remarkable. For those who might not see the exhibit as a whole, an exquisite book with essays about each county is also available. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Riley Children’s Hospital.

Painting by: Ronald Mack
Dubois County, "St. Joseph's of Jasper"
Oil on Canvas 16" x 20"
used with permission by Indiana Plein Air Painters Association
This fall the paintings will return to the Indiana State Museum, where a special gala auction will be held.

Meet the Artists
Don Woodson, of Muncie, a professional in the sign industry for over 30 years, has been the manager of the Marsh Supermarkets Sign & Display Department since 1983.

Despite color-blindness and little formal training, tenacious self-study over many years has produced a truly original style in Woodson’s work.

Woodson’s honors include 3 first place awards at the T.C. Steele Great Outdoor Paintoff, and Best Impressionist Oil at the 1998 Hoosier Salon Annual Show. His work is represented by Sigman’s Gallery located in Broad Ripple and Honeysuckle Gallery located in Nashville.

Don Russell, M.D., is a resident of Zionsville. He is a retired orthopedic surgeon and gifted painter with over 30 years of experience. Don studied with numerous notable American artists and his pursuit for painting subjects has taken him across the United States.

Conveying atmosphere and emotion through his style of brushwork and sensitive use of color, Dr. Russell’s work is truly distinctive. He has received numerous awards, including Best Landscape in the 1996 Hoosier Salon competition. Russell’s work is represented by the Hoosier Salon Gallery.

Lyle Denney is a Muncie native and U.S. Postal Service employee. He has been a passionate painter of the Hoosier landscape since his youth. His broad, impressionistic brushwork and harmonious color mixed from a very limited palette are the hallmarks of his painterly scenes of small town settings.

Denney’s success in regional and state-wide shows include several first place awards, three Best of Show awards and the People’s Award for Best of Show at the 1996 Hoosier Salon competition. His work is represented by the Hoosier Salon Gallery located in Indianapolis.

Painting by: Don Russell
Clark County, "Riley Park"
Oil on Canvas 18" x 28"
used with permission by Indiana Plein Air Painters Association
Robert Eberle is a native of Indianapolis, and a lifelong artist. Study at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis prepared him for a career in commercial art as well as his future in fine art. Eberle captures the airy, atmospheric quality of the Indiana landscape in his impressionistic works. Eberle’s subjects, from natural settings to busy city scenes, are equally mastered with his entrancing color and bold brushwork.

His works are held in corporate, private and public collections and may be seen at Honeysuckle Gallery in Nashville, the Alliance Gallery of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Sigman’s Gallery, the Hoosier Salon Gallery and the Center for Creative Arts, all in Indianapolis.

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Indiana Plein Air Painters Association, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization of artists and patron members, established in 1998. Special thanks to them for providing the above artists’ biographies.

For more information on “Painting Indiana”, contact the museum at 317-232-1637, or

For information on the book, “Painting Indiana”, contact Indiana University Press at 800-842-6796 or

The following books can be ordered directly from through

“Painting Indiana: Portraits of Indiana’s 92 Counties”, with county essays by Earl L. Conn

“The Passage: Return of Indiana Painters from Germany 1880-1905” by Martin Krause

“The Artists of Brown County” by Lyn Letsinger-Miller

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All Feature Articles, artwork and photographs ©1999 by Dervish Design. Some information on the 'County Info' pages is taken directly from brochures published by Visitors Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce.