The Hoosier Group and the Artists of the American Midwest

Current Exhibition

  • Starts November 23, 2019 12:00 PM EST
  • Ends February 1, 2020 12:00 AM EST
  • Online Gallery


Eisele Gallery of Fine Art is pleased to present Hoosier Group and the Artists of the American Midwest an online exhibition of works by William J. Forsyth, Frank J. Girardin, George Ames Aldrich and Francis Focer Brown. Known for their depictions of the Indiana landscape, the Hoosier Group's influenced artists working throughout the American Midwest during the late 19th and early 20th century. This included painters from the Society of Western Artists and the Brown County Art Colony. 

One of the five artists that made up the Hoosier group was William J. Forsyth (1854–1935). Forsyth was the first student of the Indiana School of Art in Indianapolis and entered the Munich Academy along with two other Hoosier Group artists T. C. Steele and J. Ottis Adams in 1882. He later returned to Indiana in 1888 and was instrumental in founding the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, serving as an instructor there until 1933. He died March 29, 1935. His work is in many important private collections and several museums including the Haan Mansion Museum of Indiana Art, Indiana State Museum, and Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Although they had disparate backgrounds and training, the Hoosier Group gained its cohesion from the determination of the five to attend art school in Munich in the late 1880s. Following their return to Indiana, the group dominated Indiana's art scene through the 1920s. Forsyth, Steele, and Adams all taught art at academies in the state and spread the group's ethos. They all exhibited regularly in the state for several decades and were instrumental in forming the Society of Western Artists.

The Society of Western Artists was founded by William Forsyth, T. C. Steele, J. Ottis Adams, John Elwood Bundy and fourteen other artists in 1896. The Society of Western Artists "was organized in 1896 for the purpose of uniting artists in fellowship and of combining their efforts in the advancement of Art. As one of the means to this end the Society gathers together, annually, a collection of representative works, chiefly done in the middle west, and exhibits the collection in various cities." (1)

One important member of the Society of Western Artists was Francois Joseph Girardin (1856 – 1945) an American impressionist artist who worked in the Cincinnati, Ohio, Richmond, Indiana and Los Angeles, California areas. He was also an early player for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Girardin came to Cincinnati in the 1870s and studied under Thomas Satterwhite Noble and later Frank Duveneck at the Cincinnati Art Academy. He was best known for his landscape paintings of both Indiana and southern California.

He played an important role in the development of the Art Association of Richmond (now the Richmond Art Museum) was a prominent member of the Richmond Group of artists. He was a member of the board of directors of the Art Association for several years. It was during his time in Indiana that he received the most recognition for his work. He exhibited three paintings in the Indiana building at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.

Francis Focer Brown (1891 – 1971) studied with Hoosier Group painter J. Ottis Adams while still a high school student before enrolling at the John Herron Art Institute, where he studied under Hoosier Group painter William Forsyth. Known as an American Impressionist painter, as well as professor and head of the Fine Arts Department at Ball State Teachers College (present-day Ball State University) in Muncie, Indiana from 1925 until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1957. 

He exhibited his work at the Hoosier Salon shows between 1922 and 1964, winning several awards for his oils, pastels, and watercolors between 1925 and 1945. He also won prizes for works he exhibited at the John Herron Art Institute and the Richmond Art Museum in 1922. In addition, he exhibited his work at the Herron School of Art Museum, Ball State University, Indiana Art Club shows, and the Indiana State Fair, as well as exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1922 and 1923, and Cincinnati Museum of Art between 1922 and 1925. Brown was a member Indiana Art Club and the Hoosier Salon. His work is held in collections at John Herron Art Institute (present-day Indianapolis Museum of Art), Ball State University, the Richmond (Indiana) Art Museum, and in various schools and libraries throughout Indiana.

In 1918, George Ames Aldrich (1872-1941) arrived in Chicago and became involved with the South Bend, IN art scene during the 1920s. Aldrich exhibited regularly at the Art Institute of Chicago, and was a member of the Chicago Galleries Association, the Hoosier Salon, and the Chicago Society of Painters and Sculptors. Both in Indiana and in Chicago, Aldrich's reputation was at its height in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He won a host of awards at the Hoosier Salon, the Art Institute, and the Chicago Galleries Association, where he was featured in a solo show in 1927. 

George Ames Aldrich's work is represented in many museums throughout the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Purdue Universisty, the Musee de Rouen, France, as well as the Union League of Chicago and the War Mothers Building in Washington, DC.

Following the 1913 Armory Exhibition in New York and Chicago, the Hoosier Group's visibility and sales declined dramatically. By this time the members of the group were aging and found themselves trapped in what would quickly become an old-fashioned style of painting. Artists considered members of this group include T. C. Steele, Richard Gruelle, William Forsyth, J. Ottis Adams, and Otto Stark. While works by these artists are found in private and public collections around the United States, a number of collections, primarily in Indiana, include the works of all five artists. These include: Haan Mansion Museum of Indiana Art in Lafayette; Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Indiana State Museum, and the Columbia Club in Indianapolis; Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art in Bloomington; the Richmond Art Museum in Richmond; David Owsley Museum of Art in Muncie; the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute; and DePauw University in Greencastle.


(1)"Catalogue of the Eleventh Annual Exhibition of the Society of Western Artists", The Art Institute of Chicago, December 6 to December 26, 1906, page 3. (