- Marion County
We're very interested in buying artwork by William Forsyth. Please contact us for more information.
William Forsyth was born on October 15, 1854 in the small town of California, OH along the Ohio River, his family moving to Indiana when he was ten. He began drawing early on, sketching figures and scenes that sparked his interest. It was not until late fall of 1877, though, that Forsyth was finally able to study art in a classroom setting. He became one of the first students enrolled in the newly-created Indiana School of Art in Indianapolis. Although the school would only remain open for two years, it provided the basic instruction and experiences that encouraged Forsyth to continue on this artistic path.
Forsyth continued to sketch and paint in and around Indianapolis for the next several years, oftentimes in the company of other former Indiana School of Art students. In 1881, he was given the opportunity to study in Europe and he set his sights on the Royal Academy of Munich. Several other notable American artists had trained at this Academy, and another Indiana artist, Theodore C. Steele, was working at the school at the time.
Forsyth arrived in Germany at the beginning of 1882 and was accepted as a student at the Academy in the spring of 1882. Forsyth took full advantage of his time at the Academy, and his efforts were rewarded with several honorable mentions and a bronze medal in the 1885 exhibition of student work. Forsyth finished his studies in 1886, yet stayed on in Munich through 1888 to continue his painting, concentrating almost entirely on landscapes painting outdoors.
Forsyth returned to Indiana in the fall of 1888 to open an art school in Fort Wayne, then in Muncie, with his former studio-mate James Ottis Adams. In spite of the school’s success, Forsyth left Muncie for Indianapolis in 1891 and began working as an instructor at T.C. Steele’s Indiana School of Art, a position he would hold until the school building was torn down in 1897.
November of 1894 proved to be a milestone in Forsyth’s career. He submitted twelve oil paintings, with four other Indiana artists, in a local exhibit that traveled to Chicago. The show was well-received and garnered praise from Chicago art critics who began referring to these painters as the Hoosier Group. Forsyth and fellow Indiana artists capitalized on this regional attention and created the Society of Western Artists, with members from Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis and Cincinnati. Forsyth remained actively involved in the group’s operations until it disbanded in 1914, and regularly participated in its annual exhibitions.
In 1897, Forsyth married one of his students, Alice Atkinson, on a painting trip along the Ohio River. The newlyweds returned to Indianapolis, where Forsyth began teaching private art classes in the Union Trust Building, in addition to pursuing his own landscape work during summer explorations around Indiana. In 1906, the Forsyth’s moved to the small community of Irvington, on the outskirts of Indianapolis. It was here that Forsyth was finally able to paint his beloved outdoor landscapes with regularity.
Forsyth joined the faculty of the John Herron Art Institute in the fall of 1906 as the school’s principal instructor in drawing and painting. Forsyth would work at the school for nearly three decades, relishing the opportunity to provide guidance to aspiring artists and to involve the general public in fine arts discourse. He gave regular gallery talks and, in 1924, began teaching summer courses for the institute at Winona Lake. In 1933, the Art Institute, in an attempt to weather the economic downturn, fired several well-known professors, including Forsyth. Forsyth would continue to paint, nearly every day, until his death on March 29, 1935.
The following information was submitted by a site visitor:
William J. Forsyth (1854-1935) was born in California, Ohio, but moved to the Indiana town of Versailles in Ripley county in 1864, and then later to Indianapolis. He studied art locally at the now closed Indiana School of Art and then later in Munich where he met up with the other members of the famous ‘Hoosier Group’. Upon his return to Indiana, he opened an art school in Muncie with J.O Adams and then joined T.C. Steele at the second Indiana School of Art. He joined the faculty of the Herron School of Art in 1906 and remained there until he was let go in 1933. He died in 1935 in his Irvington house and was survived by his artist wife Alice Atkinson and their three daughters. During his lifetime he was known as the Dean of the ‘Irvington Group’ as well as a member of the Hoosier Group and was a huge advocate for the arts in Indiana. He also helped to form the Society of Western Artists which strived to recognize art produced in this region.
See also Rachel Perry’s excellent, recent book William J. Forsyth: The Life and Work of an Indiana Artist
We are very interested in purchasing artwork by William Forsyth. Please contact us if you have pieces you are considering selling.