(Sept. 4, 1883-May 10, 1953). Born in Hadley, Indiana, Clifton A. Wheeler attended the John Herron Art Institute and studied under American Impressionist William Merritt Chase both in New York City and in Europe. He was also a student of painter Robert Henri, a Cincinnati native who pioneered the Aschan School of American realism characterized by depicting urban life in an uncompromising brutalist style, while in New York.

A man sits in a chair in front of an art easel.
Clifton Wheeler at the John Herron Art Institute, ca. 1920s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

In 1914, he joined the group of Indianapolis area artists to paint the decorative murals for the Indianapolis City Hospital. Wheeler also painted the mural Garden In Ice And Snow for the Carnegie Library in Thorntown, Indiana, and, in 1916, he created the classical mural above the marquee of the Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis.

Wheeler was a frequent exhibitor in the Hoosier Salon, Indiana Artists Club, Indiana State Fair, John Herron Art Institute, and Richmond Art Association annual shows. He won numerous awards in these competitions, including the Foulke Prize at the Richmond show in 1917 as well as the Holcomb Prize (1923) and Indianapolis Art Association Award (1924) at the Herron Institute exhibitions of Indiana artists.

Residing in the Indianapolis eastside community of Irvington, Wheeler was associated with the Irvington Group of artists who held annual exhibitions from 1928 to 1937. He was also a member of the Society of Western Artists, the Indiana Artists Club, the Portfolio Club, and the Indianapolis Literary Club.

Wheeler taught classes at the Herron School of Art until 1933, and thereafter was an art instructor at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis. He spent many of his summer vacations sketching and painting the Rocky Mountains and the Smoky Mountains in oil and watercolor. Other favorite subjects for his paintings were Brown County scenes and the common views around Irvington, especially along Pleasant Run Creek.

Besides his public murals, Wheeler’s work is located in the permanent collections of the Indianapolis Museum Of Art, Ball State University, Butler University, Purdue University, Indiana University, the Indianapolis Public Schools, and the Bona Thompson Memorial Center. His paintings can also be found in the homes of many Indianapolis area residents.

Revised March 2021
Visual Arts

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