(Oct. 15, 1854-Mar. 29, 1935). Born in California, Ohio, Forsyth moved to Indianapolis as a young man. He enrolled in the first class of the Indiana School of Art (1877), organized by John Love and James Gookins in the Fletcher-Sharpe Block at the southwest corner of Washington and Pennsylvania streets. The school failed in 1879 for lack of public support, but its students, including Forsyth, Thomas E. Hibben, and Fred Hetherington, occupied the school’s rooms and pursued sketching and etching on their own under the name of the Bohe Club, abbreviated from Bohemian. 

Oil painting of an elderly woman seated in a chair in old-fashioned clothes. She is holding the handle of a furled umbrella in one hand and has a woven basket over her other arm.
Old Market Woman, n.d. Credit: Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields View Source

In December 1881, with underwriting from Hibben, Forsyth joined a contingent of Indiana artists—T. C. Steele, J. Ottis Adams, and Samuel Richards—already at the Royal Academy of Painting in Munich. They became known as the Hoosier Group of artists.

Of the group, Forsyth was the last to return, coming home in the fall of 1888. By the next spring, faced with tight finances, he joined Adams in Muncie to teach and organize the Muncie Art School. From that time until his death, teaching was his profession. The summer months, often spent in southernmost Indiana, were reserved for his own painting. Forsyth won a bronze medal for his oil painting and a silver medal for his watercolor at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, another medal at the 1910 International Fine Arts Exposition in Buenos Aires, and two more at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.

When the Muncie Art School folded in the spring of 1891, Forsyth joined Steele for the fall term of the second Indiana School of Art, which occupied the former Second Presbyterian Church on the northwest corner of Market Street and the Circle in Indianapolis. Among his students was Alice Atkinson, whom he married on October 14, 1897. That same year the school closed because of the expansion of the English Hotel and Opera House; Forsyth then took private students until October 1906, when he replaced Adams as the principal instructor of painting and drawing at the john herron art institute.

Though combative in temperament and severe as a teacher, Forsyth was highly regarded by his students. When in May 1933, the new dean of the art school, forcibly retired the 78-year-old Forsyth, an event still vividly and hotly remembered, the students hung Mattison in effigy. The last surviving member of the Hoosier Group, Forsyth died two years later in the rambling house at 15 South Emerson in Irvington that had been his home and where he had raised his family since 1906.

Revised February 2021
Visual Arts

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