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The Herron School of Art Centennial: Students and Teachers, 1902­1950


The Indianapolis Museum of Art is exhibiting The Herron School of Art Centennial: Students and Teachers, 1902­1950.

According to a capsule history in the Herron School of Art website "The Herron School of Art boasts a rich tradition. The roots of the school were planted in 1877, when the Indiana School of Art was established as the first school in Indiana dedicated to the teaching of art on a professional level. In 1883, the school became the Art Association of Indianapolis. In 1895, John Herron, a frugal farmer and land speculator, bequeathed most of his fortune to the association, which was headed by suffragette and educator May Wright Sewell. As a result of John Herron's gift, Herron School of Art sprang to life in 1902. Its buildings were officially dedicated in 1906. Herron's museum building was the second facility in the nation built expressly for art education. Herron's first wave of faculty included T.C. Steele, Rudolf Schwartz, J. Ottis Adams, William Forsyth, Otto Stark, and Richard Gruelle, who were influential in the Brown County and Dune schools of painting." (right: Henrik Martin Mayer (American, 1908-1972), Halloween Carnival, 1938, oil on masonite, Gift of Mrs. Henrik Mayer)

As Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis' Herron School of Art celebrated its centennial anniversary, the Indianapolis community was invited to attend a variety of exhibits, lectures and workshops that showcased the work of prominent visiting artists - some notable Herron alumni.

This exhibition, organized in celebration of Herron's 100th anniversary, features 26 works created by 23 Herron students and teachers during the Indianapolis arts school's first 50 years. Drawn from the IMA''s permanent collection, the paintings, sculpture and works on paper represent the range and talent of artists who worked and studied at Herron during those early years. The Herron School of Art Centennial: Students and Teachers, 1902­1950 is continuing through December 31, 2003. (left: Robert E. Weaver (American, 1914-1991), Circus Poster, oil on canvas, Daniel P. Erwin Fund; right below: Wayman Adams (American, 1883-1959), The Art Jury, 1921, oil on canvas, Gift of the Art Association through Popular Subscription)

Following is wall text prepared for The Herron School of Art Centennial: Students and Teachers, 1902­1950.

In January 1902, with five teachers and 10 pupils, the Herron School of Art opened its doors. This exhibition, organized in celebration of Herron's 100th anniversary, presents work created by Herron teachers and students during the school's first 50 years. Drawn from the Indianapolis Museum of Art's permanent collection, these paintings, sculpture and works on paper provide a sample of the talented artists who worked and learned at Herron during the first half of the 20th century. Almost 100 artists taught at Herron and a few thousand pupils studied there during its early years, making Herron one of the country's most active art schools.
From the first year, fine arts instruction at Herron emphasized student mastery of the fundamentals of drawing and design. The teacher most responsible for the success of Herron pupils during the school's first three decades was the painter William Forsyth, who instilled in his students the principles of design and respect for the traditional methods of Western art.
Herron underwent a fundamental change in 1933, when the school's newly appointed director, Donald Mattison, dismissed most of the existing faculty and replaced them with instructors from some of the nation's leading art schools. Herron's governing board challenged Mattison with the goal of producing Herron students capable of winning prestigious national competitions. During the late 1930s, painting students Clifford Jones and Harry Davis, and sculpture student Robert Pippinger each one the coveted Prix de Rome, entitling them to study in Italy.
Although many of the methods of making art have changed since the days of Forsyth and Mattison, the Herron School of Art continues to provide its students with the kinds of opportunities for artistic development that characterized its first 50 years.


RLM note: Please also see A Walk in the Woods: The Art of John Elwood Bundy (1853-1933), essay by William H. Gerdts (10/30/02) which references the Herron School of Art

rev. 10/30/03

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