Click the Image to Enlarge

Wheeler, Clifton Snow Covered Banks, No Date


Clifton Wheeler was born in Hadley, in Hendricks County, Indiana. When he was in the fourth grade, his family bought a flourmill at Mooresville and moved there. In a 1945 letter to the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette, he wrote, “One of my first new friends introduced me to James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, and we built wigwams, tracked each other through the woods along the creek and had a few camping and hiking trips into the hills in southern Morgan County. By this time I was scrawling very poor drawings all over the flyleaves of my schoolbooks instead of studying. I got good grades in English, Civil Government and History, poor grades in Mathematics, until I reached solid Geometry when they went up, and awful grades in Latin, in which I flunked one year. . . . When I finished high school I was reluctantly allowed to come to Indianapolis to Wm. Forsyth’s studio for a year. Forsyth and my doctor aunt, who lived in New York, assured my parents that I would not necessarily be a tramp if I studied art and at last they sadly agreed that I might go to New York for a year to art school.”

Wheeler had studied under Forsyth at the Herron Art Institute. He then studied with William Merritt Chase in New York City and went to Europe twice to study. Around 1911 he returned to Indiana with his wife, and they built a home and studio in Irvington, an eastside Indianapolis neighborhood where Forsyth and other artists also lived. He became an instructor at the Herron Art Institute, in charge of the antique class.

Wheeler had no special technique or subject, but his decorative work was well known, and he had murals all over the country. His murals at the Indianapolis Circle Theatre and City Hospital (now Wishard) are among his best work. His landscape paintings—especially his snow scenes—are held in high regard.

  • Snow Covered Banks, n.d.
  • 18″ x 23 1/2″
  • Art Museum of Greater Lafayette
  • Keywords: paintings, natural landscapes, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: outdoors, winter, trees, streams

Even though there is snow on the banks, the artist has given a warm feeling to the day by the use of light and warm colors along with the cool ones. The shadows are long, and the stream pulls your eye through the painting, inviting you to travel with Wheeler on the stream. He wrote about the painting, “I hardly know what to say about the picture except that it was painted on Pleasant Run near the edge of Indianapolis and that my hands nearly froze while I was doing it. I am fond of walking both in summer and winter and I spend a good deal of time on this stream which is only about two blocks from my home.” The painting was a gift to the Lafayette Art Association by the children of the Ford School.

Some Points to Consider

  • Ask students: Where are the areas of cool color in this painting? Where are the areas of warm color? Point out the curving line used to paint the creek edge and the effects of the shadows. Ask: Do those properties add to the expressive quality of the painting? Why or why not? (Art 4.3.1)
  • Remind students that some winter scenes can be dark and dreary. Ask: How does a winter scene need to be painted in order to convey its beauty? (Art 4.5.1)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Do a sensory activity with your students. Have them close their eyes and imagine water rushing over rocks and along a streambed. Have them describe the sounds and odors they hear and smell.