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Ketcham, Susan Portrait of a Hat, 1888


Susan Ketcham was born in Indiana and became influential in Indianapolis art circles. She studied under John W. Love at the Indiana School of Art, helped establish two art schools, taught art, and organized an international exhibition for the Art Association of Indianapolis in 1883. She traveled to Europe in 1886 to study music and art. She moved in 1889 to New York City, studying at the Art Students League. She then studied with William Merritt Chase and later maintained a studio in Carnegie Hall, where for 29 years she was devoted to painting seascapes. Ketcham’s maternal grandfather, Samuel Merrill, was Indiana’s first treasurer and moved the state treasury from Corydon to Indianapolis.

  • Portrait of a Hat, 1888
  • 15″ x 12″
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Keywords: paintings, portraits, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: people, women, hats

This is a portrait not only of a hat but also of the wearer. It is done in a painterly style. The hat and the figure divide the background into distinguishable spaces; the spaces actually emphasize, or set off, the face of the sitter.

Some Points To Consider

  • Ask students to describe what the artist has done to make this painting expressive. (Art 4.3.1)
  • Discuss the possibilities for art training that existed in the late 1800s. Ask students if they think Hoosiers were interested in studying art. Why or why not? Have students select criteria to analyze how painting has improved since then. (Art 4.4.2)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Help students make their own hats using construction paper, flowers, feathers, buttons, fabric, and any other objects to personalize them with interesting details.