No one can say for sure who was the first Indiana artist, illustrator, or cartoonist. However, in a book called American Pioneer Arts and Artists (1942), the author, Carl W. Drepperd, is unequivocal about the date, place, and founder of the Hoosier State's first school of art:
At New Harmony, Indiana, William McClure opened the first school for drawing, painting, engraving and lithography in the state, 1826. Charles Alexander [sic] Lesueur was the art teacher at the New Harmony School, 1826 to 1837.
William McClure (1763-1840) was a Scottish-born geologist, cartographer, merchant, and educator. He is known as "the father of American geology." If a map is an illustration, then McClure might be considered one of the earliest of Indiana illustrators. He made a geological map of the United States published in 1809 and 1817. In the mid 1820s, he settled in Robert Owen's Utopian community of New Harmony, Indiana, and established a school for adults. Charles Alexandre Lesueur (1778-1846), the art teacher at New Harmony, was a French artist and naturalist and a friend of William McClure. He also served as a kind of unofficial artist of the New Harmony experiment. Also in residence at New Harmony was David Dale Owen (1807-1860), son of Robert Owen and a geologist and artist.
The community at New Harmony received visitors in the winter of 1832-1833 in the persons of Prinz Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867), a German aristocrat, explorer, naturalist, and ethnologist, and the artist Johann Carl Bodmer, better known Karl Bodmer (1809-1893). Bodmer was a painter, graphic artist, and illustrator. His work as such would place him in a category as one of Indiana's first illustrators, along with McClure, Lesueur, and Robert Dale Owen.
In his book, Drepperd mentions another early art school within a "female seminary" (the Monroe County Female Academy), located in Bloomington and maintained by Cornelius Pering from 1832 to 1849. Pering, an English-born educator, was born in 1806 and died in 1881.
|Mollusks and zoophytes, drawn by Charles Alexandre Lesueur, one of the first Indiana illustrators. This drawing is from 1807, prior to Lesueur's arrival in the Hoosier State.|
|A drawing of the eastern quoll or eastern native cat (Dasyurus viverrinus), an Australian marsupial, also by Lesueur (date unknown).|
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley