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Love, John W. The Sycamores (Broad Ripple), 1878


John W. Love was born in Napoleon, in Ripley County, Indiana. His family moved to Indianapolis when he was a boy. He eventually attended Northwestern Christian University (now Butler University). At 19 he studied with Barton S. Hays and then went to Cincinnati to study under Henry Mosler. He studied a few months at the National Academy of Design in New York and went to Europe in 1872, enrolling in the École des Beaux- Arts in Paris.

Love returned to Indiana in 1876 and founded the Indianapolis Art Association and the Indiana School of Art with the help of James F. Gookins. It was located in the Saks Building at the corner of Washington and Pennsylvania streets in Indianapolis. The city wasn’t financially ready for such a fine school, and eventually it failed. One of Love’s first pupils, William Forsyth, described him as “tall, broad-shouldered and distinguished, a handsome blond giant whose appearance would have attracted attention anywhere.” Wilbur Peat writes in Pioneer Painters, “The few extant canvases by Love attest to his power as a painter, and reflect both his foreign training and the germ of an individual style. He worked in a strong, direct manner, based on sound draughtmanship and a good understanding of form and color.” In Art in Indiana, Forsyth is quoted as saying, “Mr. Love was hardly thirty when he died, and his death was a great loss not only to the state but to the country in all probability. . . . Exceptionally trained, a splendid draughtsman and painter—quite the equal of Chase and Alden Weir and others who had been with him either at New York or abroad—there was no reason, had he lived, why he should not have developed into a leading light in art in this country.”

  • The Sycamores (Broad Ripple), 1878
  • 30″ x 25″
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Keywords: paintings, natural landscapes, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: outdoors, trees, rivers, people, women, hats, parasols, Pioneer Painters

This painting is Impressionist in style. The parasol acts as a frame around the face of the woman. It is a vertical composition with strong parallel lines. The play of light and shadows adds an air of mystery to the painting. The scene is at Broad Ripple in Indianapolis. The water could be the Central Canal, but more likely is the White River, given the apparent rapid current.

Some Points To Consider

  • Review with students the main characteristics of Impressionism. Ask them to look again at the angle of the trees and how they dwarf the figure in this painting. Ask students why they think the artist used proportion the way he did in this painting. (Art 4.3.1)
  • Ask students: How does this painting make you feel? What does it express? Do you think it is well painted? Why or why not? What gives this painting artistic merit? (Art 4.4.2)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • It looks as if the figure in the painting might have been added later. Have the students paint a landscape on white paper. Encourage them to utilize the entire sheet of paper. Then ask them to cut from magazines figures and objects that fit the scale of their painting. Have students glue the pieces onto their painting to create a collage effect. Ask students to describe how adding the figures and objects changed the mood of the painting.