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Indiana Governor Portrait Artist: William R. Freeman (c. 1820 - c. 1906)

William R. Freeman

Artist, Indiana Governors' Portrait Collection

Thomas Andrews Hendricks

Thomas Andrews Hendricks (1819-1885)
Governor of Indiana
January 13, 1873-January 8, 1877

Artist: William R. Freeman, American, c.1820-c.1906
oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 29 (91.7 x 73.7)
Signed l.r.: W. R. Freeman

GOVERNOR THOMAS A. HENDRICKS had his portrait painted by an artist named William R. Freeman soon after he assumed office in 1873. Freeman, the fifth Indiana painter to be employed on the project, was well known in this region. He traveled rather extensively in connection with his portrait work, visiting Indianapolis more than once as he shuttled back and forth through Indiana and the neighboring states. Dunn reports that Freeman was "a transient here in 1873-4, who stopped at the Bates House and painted several portraits of citizens." (1)

Freeman was born in New York State about 1820 and came to Vincennes, Indiana, in 1849. He rented a studio there and painted portraits of members of some of the early families. Later he moved to Terre Haute, and at one time he lived in Madison. Following his short stay in Indianapolis, he went to San Francisco, and so far as is known, did not return to Indiana. He died in St. Louis about 1906. (2)

Freeman's canvas is one of the best in the State House collection. Hendricks sits upright in his office chair, looking off to the observer's right with a thoughtful expression. He appears relaxed; his hand, holding an Indianapolis newspaper, has dropped to his lap. His head is well drawn; the figure is fully modeled and features are clearly indicated. The artist has suggested a candid, honest, and amiable personality. Freeman's style is mellower than that of the painters we have discussed up to this point, and his colors, though limited to grays and reds, are pleasing and harmonious.

Thomas A. Hendricks, because of his achievements as a peace governor, was one of the four men chosen by Governor Ralston at the time of the state's centennial, for representation as an "epochal" governor. Steel's portrait made for this group seems to have been painted from a photograph taken late in Hendrick's life. According to the Indianapolis press, Governor Ralston was especially pleased with the study of "gentle, yet courageous Hendricks whom he, as a young man beginning his study of law, had as a friend. Members of the Hendricks family who have seen the portrait of their illustrious ancestor have expressed their admiration for the Steele painting." (3)

(1) Dunn, Greater Indianapolis, I, 481.

(2) See Peat, Pioneer Painters of Indiana, pp. 24-25, 41-42, 188-190, for more detailed biographical information on Freeman.

(3) Indianapolis Star, March 18, 1916, p. 7. The paintings of the four epochal governors are reproduced here.

Source: Peat, Wilbur D. Portraits and Painters of the Governors of Indiana 1800-1978. Revised, edited and with new entries by Diane Gail Lazarus, Indianapolis Museum of Art. Biographies of the governors by Lana Ruegamer, Indiana Historical Society. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society and Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1978.