Pastel: Robert Hoffman: About Brown County, Indiana

In the spring 2007 issue of Workshop, we discussed how oil and pastel artist Robert Hoffman encouraged students to relax, explore, and experiment in his five-day introduction to plein air painting. Here, we offer an excerpt from the article about how the Brown County artist's colony influenced Hoffman's technique.


by Jennifer King

T.C. Steele’s home
at the T.C. Steele
State Historic Site,
near Brown County,

As a young artist, Robert Hoffman sought training wherever he could. Having learned about the importance of the late 19th-century artists in southern Brown County, Indiana, this northern-Indiana-based artist traveled a fair distance to the historic art colony in search of some remaining master painters who could teach him about landscape painting on location. Fortunately, Hoffman’s quest eventually brought him to Frederick Rigley, who works in the tradition of these long-gone landscape painters. Now 91, Rigley still lives in Nashville, the heart of Brown County, so when Hoffman holds a workshop there, he sets up a special dinner for students to meet this respected artist that ends with a visit to Rigley’s studio/gallery.

Of course, Hoffman and his workshop students are drawn to Brown County for the same reasons the original group of landscape artists relocated there: the incredible scenery. The low, rolling hills, crystal skies, and quaint back roads and farms are as charming today as they were 100 years ago. In the spring, the countryside is dotted with white dogwoods and pink redbuds, and the blazing colors of autumn are simply breathtaking.

Adolph Robert Shulz (1869–1963) is generally considered to be the father of the Brown County artists’ colony. He trained in Chicago, New York, and Paris before settling into southern Indiana in the late 19th century. Other artists drawn to the colony included T.C. Steele (1847–1926), Ada Walter Shulz (1870–1928), Carl Graf (1890–1947), Marie Goth (1887–1975), and Varaldo G. Cariani (1891–1969).

Today, the T.C. Steele home and gardens are an official state historic site, open to the public and welcoming of the many plein air artists who come to work on the grounds in every season. Also of interest are the Brown County Art Guild’s gallery and the Brown County Art Gallery and Museum, both in Nashville, that offer links to the mastery of the great historic artists of the region. Elsewhere in the state, the Richmond Art Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Indiana State Museum, in Indianapolis, are just a few of the institutions that hold Brown County artists’ works in their collections.

View a demonstration of Hoffman's Autumn Sunlight.

Want to read more about Hoffman's technique? Check out the spring 2007 issue of Workshop today!

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Pastel Painting

One thought on “Pastel: Robert Hoffman: About Brown County, Indiana

  1. I am curious about a painting my mother purchased from an artist named Hoffman. It is called the blessing of the hounds and was done in the late 1970’s of 1980’s. My mom told me the artist lived on the east coast and sold many of her (or his) paintings. I had paperwork authenticating the artist and the painting, but it was lost during one of many moves in the military. Does anyone know about this artist and if so could let me know how much it is worth, so I can get the proper amount of insurance on it.

    My mom purchased it directly from the artist because it was painted at Ft. Leavenworth at a ceremony called the “Blessing of the Hounds” (name of picture also). She purchased it because my father was in the painting because he was “master of the hounds”

    I have pictures available