Here, Steele captures the reflection of light on the saturated landscape between the German villages of Schleissheim and Dachau. In the distance, two peasant women gather reeds, breaking the solitude of this vast, picturesque swampland.
After one year of residence in Munich, Steele and his family relocated to the suburb of Schleissheim. Artist J. Frank Currier, a part-time neighbor, and William Forsyth proved to be faithful sketching companions for Steele on his excursions around Dachau.
Landscape painting was omitted from the Munich Academy’s curriculum, but Steele and his classmates followed their own program of study. One may detect the influence of the Academy in the picture’s oily browns and in the overall finish of the composition.
T. C. Steele was born in Gosport Indiana. His family later moved to Waveland where Steele began taking art classes at age twelve. By the time he was eighteen, Steele was teaching drawing and painting at Waveland Collegiate Institute. Steele moved to Indianapolis and cultivated a friendship with Herman Lieber, who became his patron. He studied at the Indiana School of Art with its founder John Love. Lieber raised the funds to send Steele and his family to Europe. Steele chose to go to Munich because it was less expensive than Paris and he could study with Frank Duveneck, a prominent Ohio painter. When Steele returned to Indianapolis, he established an art school with William Forsyth. He did portraits and landscapes, many of them dark and dramatic, in the style known as the Munich School. When he began to explore the Indiana countryside, Steele turned almost completely to landscape painting, and his work became more colorful and gradually more impressionistic. Steele emerged as the leader and spokesman for a group of Indiana artists known as The Hoosier Group, which included Indiana’s most important Impressionist painters, including William Forsyth, J. Ottis Adams, Otto Stark, and Richard Gruelle. In 1902 and 1903, Steele toured the American West, painting in Oregon and around San Francisco. In 1906, he settled in Brown County in a home that became known as the House of the Singing Winds.
Situated between the German towns of Dachau and Schleissheim, the Dachau Moor was a favorite painting spot for Steele and Forsyth. It offered a serene landscape where the Hoosier artists could spend undisturbed hours sketching and painting. Here in the dwindling late afternoon light, Steele captures the essence of the quiet scene. In this richly r=textured landscape, the thick areas of white suggest reflections from the sun’s descending rays on the rippling water. The sense of solitude is broken only by the two peasant women fathering reeds in the dimly lit landscape. Painted near the end of his stay in Munich, the dark, gray-green tonality of Late Afternoon is a legacy of Steele’s academic training.
William H. Gerdts. Theodore Clement Steele: American Master of Light, New York: Chameleon Books, 1995. ASIN: B002J7NK4K