(Nov. 16, 1870-Mar. 20, 1965). Son of the celebrated Hoosier artist T. C. Steele, Rembrandt (Brandt) Steele was reared in Indianapolis and attended Indianapolis High School.

A pencil sketch of a woman playing a banjo.
“Woman with Banjo,” ca. 1900 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Briefly employed by a number of leading architects in Indianapolis, he moved to Paris by the summer of 1894, studying at the Académie Julian, the Academie Colarossi, and the Aman Jean School. He took classes with designer Eugene Grasset at the Ecole Normale d’Enseignement du Dessin and created end and headpieces as well as decorative borders for Joseph Bowles’ journal Modern Art.

After continuing his study in Munich in 1895, he returned to Indianapolis in 1897 where he began Brandt Steele Pottery. A year later, he displayed both ceramics and designs at the First Exhibition of the Arts & Crafts held at the high school building. Steele absorbed both Parisian Art Noveau (characterized by long sinuous curving organic lines) and German Jugendstil influences (combining floral decoration, sinuous curves, and geometric lines) but added his own flavor of American and English Arts and Crafts to form a distinct midwestern style.

Steele sits on scaffolding as he works on carving stone.
Steele working on the design of the Lieber monument, to be located at Crown Hill Cemetery, ca. 1910 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

During the early 20th century, Steele was active as a designer-architect for some of the leading art patrons in Indianapolis. He designed interiors as well as stained glass and furniture for Herman, Robert, and Carl Lieber. From 1902 to 1909, he taught courses in “design and modern ornament” at the John Herron Art Institute. He was head of the design department at H. Lieber Company from about 1910 to the 1930s.

During the last years of his life, Steele was involved with the Indianapolis Camera Club, exhibiting photographs nationally and internationally. Around 1945, with Kurt Vonnegut Sr., he again began making pottery. The collections of the Indianapolis Museum Of Art At Newfields include several examples of his work.

Revised March 2021
Visual Arts

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