Pioneers and Innovators

Jacob Cox

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1810 to 1892

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Why: Cox was known as Indiana’s most noted pioneer painter, capturing the rural landscapes in and around Indianapolis. He also specialized in portraits and allegorical “fancy paintings.”

Robert Indiana

Where: New Castle

When: 1928 to present

Why: Born Robert Clark, he changed his last name in honor of his home state. His signature style was hard-edged paintings and sculptures, often with short three- or four-letter words incorporated into them. The standard-bearer is his LOVE painting and sculpture.

Felrath Hines

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1913 to 1993

Why: Hines was one of the pioneering African-American artists who embraced abstract art. His paintings implemented color and the interaction between different hues, letting the images created speak directly to the viewer.


Where: Evansville

When: 1932 to 1990

Why: As a teenager growing up in Evansville, Halston would make experimental hats for his mother and sister. That creativity blossomed in the 1970s, when he became America’s first superstar fashion designer.

Janet Payne Bowles

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1872-1948

Why: A metal-smithing teacher in Indianapolis, Bowles also created jewelry, table settings and other metal pieces to make extra money. Her work was prized for its intricacy and quality, earning commissions from a number of Italian churches.


Elizabeth and Mary Overbeck

Where: Cambridge City

When: Elizabeth 1875 to 1936; Mary 1878 to 1956

Why: The Overbeck Sisters worked together to sell pottery out of their family home for more than 40 years. They never were married, and instead dedicated their lives to designing their ceramics.

Bill Blass

Where: Fort Wayne

When: 1922 to 2002

Why: Blass was an influential fashion designer in the 1950s and 1960s, challenging the idea that Paris was the center of the fashion world. His elegant yet comfortable designs for women made him popular.

Michael Graves

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1934 to 2015

Why: An architect by trade, Graves added a product design division to his firm in the 1980s. His belief was that items for the home should be both functional and well-designed.

Nature Lovers

George Winter

Where: Logansport

When: 1809 to 1879

Why: Winter moved to Logansport in 1837, and his sketches, paintings and writings from the time serve as a rare document of Native American people at the time.

T.C. Steele

Where: Owen County, Brown County, Indianapolis and other locales

When: 1847 to 1926

Why: Indiana’s most famous landscape painter captured hundreds of scenes of the states wilderness. He was the most famous of the Hoosier School of American Impressionist painters.

Frank Hohenberger

Where: Indianapolis, Nashville

When: 1876 to 1963

Why: When he moved to Nashville in 1917, Hohenberger’s original plan was to photograph the famous landscape. But some of his most famous works are the images of the people living in Nashville at the time.

David Smith

Where: Decatur

When: 1906 to 1965

Why: Smith’s sculpture tended to be large abstract geometric shapes made of steel, but at the same time the work had a deep engagement with nature. Smith is regarded as one of the giants of 20th century U.S. sculpture.

Teachers and Trainers

William Merritt Chase

Where: Nineveh

When: 1849 to 1916

Why: After leaving Nineveh and then Indianapolis, Chase trained in Europe before settling in New York City. He helped train the next generation of master painters, including Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth.

Wilhelmina Seegmiller

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1866 to 1913

Why: Seegmiller believed that fine art should be accessible to everyone, and worked locally and throughout the world to make that belief a reality. She also built a strong relationship with the John Herron Art School to provide a greater interest in art.

William Forsyth

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1854 to 1935

Why: A contemporary to T.C. Steele, Forsyth established himself as a talented artist with his sketches, landscapes and still-lifes. Once his own career was established, he went to work teaching painting and drawing over a 40-year span.

Garo Antreasian

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1922 to present

Why: Antreasian helped revive the printmaking technique of lithography, using oil-based ink and water to create images. His own art often involved experimentation with new material and technique.

Visionaries and Dreamers

William Majors

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1930 to 1982

Why: Majors studied in Indiana before moving to New York City, where he became known for his paintings inspired by the religious art that he encountered in Italy. He also mixed calligraphy and biology into his compositions, using a language of shapes to express ideas about life on earth.

Vija Celmins

Where: Indianapolis

When: 1938 to present

Why: Celmins, a Latvian immigrant, studied lithography under Garo Antreasian and went on to become a worldwide sensation, with major exhibitions shown in art hot-spots such as New York, Paris and London.

George Rickey

Where: South Bend

When: 1907 to 2002

Why: Rickey’s kinetic three-dimensional works blend time and movement into what had previously been a static sculptural form. He liked to say that his tools included the laws governing movement, acceleration, gravity and momentum.

— Information from the Indianapolis Museum of Art

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.