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Richardson, Constance Street Light, 1930


Constance Coleman Richardson was born in Germany. Her father, Christopher B. Coleman, was a student there at the time. When Coleman returned to his teaching duties at Butler University, he had her birth certificate changed to say that she was born in Indianapolis. He headed the Indiana Historical Bureau and the Indiana Historical Society 1924–44 and oversaw the construction of the Indiana State Library and Historical Building. She lived in Detroit after 1931.

Richardson studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at Vassar College. Her paintings show light, space, and air. She described her work to the Indianapolis Museum of Art: “It interests me to look at nature, which I find much more remarkable than anything anyone can make up; and try to say something about light and space and air and how wonderful the world really is if you look at it; and to say it with clarity and serenity and objectivity.”

  • Street Light, 1930
  • 28 3/16″ x 36″
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Keywords: paintings, urban landscapes, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: outdoors, people, men, women, houses, trees, streets

Constance Richardson said that this painting “reeks of the cigar and the suburbs of Indianapolis.” It has been painted in a monochromatic color palette—shades and tints of green. The style is abstract; the trees look like Tiffany stained glass lampshades, and the tree trunks look like sticks stuck into the ground. Note the exaggerated light and shadows as a result of the street light’s effect.

Some Points To Consider

  • Ask students to describe what is abstract about this work. Do they think anything about it looks unreal or distorted? If so, what? (Art 4.2.3)
  • Ask: What is the mood of this painting? How does it make you feel? How does the monochromatic color scheme help express that mood? What other color schemes might also work? (Art 4.5.2)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Have each student cut a colorful picture from a magazine, and then place a piece of red cellophane over the drawing. This will reduce the colors to values of one color. Using only red paint, with white, black, or both added, have students paint in the areas of the drawing. They should not attempt to achieve great detail, only shapes and value changes.