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Groll, Theodore Washington Street, Indianapolis at Dusk, 1892 – 1895


Theodore Groll was born in Germany. He studied at the Berlin Academy of Arts as a student of architect Kaspar Scheuren. A noted landscape and architectural painter, Groll was asked to come to the United States to judge the German entries in the World�s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He apparently remained in the United States for several years afterward. His uncle, Herman Frederic Lieber, owned an important art gallery on South Meridian Street in Indianapolis.

  • Washington Street, Indianapolis at Dusk, 1892–1895
  • 76″ x 98 1/2″
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Keywords: paintings, cultural landscapes, narrative, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: outdoors, streets, buildings, people, men, women, children, hats, uniforms, transportation, trolleys, domestic animals

This painting shows an eastbound view of West Washington Street, with the State House and Park Theatre in the foreground. The Blake Street trolley is delivering the evening theater audience to the northeast corner of Washington and Mississippi (now Senate) streets. (The theater, the oldest playhouse in Indianapolis, burned in 1897.) To the right there is a dramatically receding vista of the city skyline, with the tower of the old Marion County Courthouse in the distance. The Blake Street trolley, drawn by a mule, is being hailed by a prosperously dressed man in the foreground. On the right are a market stall and a saloon bustling with activity. The several separate views are extremely detailed and probably quite accurate. There are distortions of perspective, however, that suggest that the artist has combined smaller views into this salon-size painting. The angle of the saloon in the lower right, for example, is inconsistent with the street direction.

Some Points To Consider

  • Have students name the features of this painting that describe life in downtown Indianapolis in 1895. Ask students why might it be important now to have a painting of a theater that is no longer there. (4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.1.3)
  • Ask students: How has the bustling activity of downtown Indianapolis changed from then to now? Are there still any market stalls downtown? If so, where? Why would people who live in the suburbs go downtown to buy from a market stall? (Art 4.1.1)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Help students write a short play using this painting as the setting for the content or theme. For example, the play might revolve around the trolley ride. You could arrange the desks and chairs like trolley seating to allow each student to have a part. Remind students to try to use language of the period rather than contemporary vocabulary. If time permits, allow students to create costumes that reflect the clothing of the era. After students have performed their play, help them write a second act that sets the scene in the current day. What changes will they need to make to the clothing and transportation? Then help them write a third act that sets the scene in the year 2060. What can they imagine about the future?
  • Allow class time for students to research the evolution of the trolley and how it changed from animal to electric power.
  • Help students create a late 19th century street scene inside the classroom based on their own town or neighborhood. Ask a local historian to come to class and talk to students about the lighting, transportation, clothing, language, commerce, and other details.