Small world

What do 19th-century painter T.C. Steele, Harvard philosopher Ralph Barton Perry, and Kurt Vonnegut have in common? I discovered some fascinating connections while researching a story about Steele and the Arts & Crafts Movement for Bloom Magazine.


Richard Lieber


Cousin of Hermann Lieber, who was T.C. Steele’s close friend and patron

Founder, Indiana State Parks system

Great-grandfather of Frederic Lieber


Hermann Lieber


Bookbinder from Dusseldorf who opened and then operated H. Lieber & Company Art Emporium in Indianapolis

Premier patron of T.C. Steele

(Photo is reproduced from The House of the Singing Winds at the first link below)


Theodore Clement Steele



Founder of the Portfolio (often called the Portfolio Club) in Indianapolis, an organization for artists and writers


Bernard Berenson


Art historian

Brother-in-law of Ralph Barton Perry, the grandfather of Rachel Perry, author of T.C. Steele and the Society of Western Artists: 1896-1914 (Indiana Press, 2009), and so…

Great-uncle of Rachel Perry


Ralph Barton Perry

Philosopher at Harvard University

Brother-in-law of Bernard Berenson

Grandfather of Rachel Perry

Glass and cabinetry designed by Brandt Steele for sons of Hermann Lieber


Herman P. Lieber

Son of Hermann Lieber

In 1909 Brandt Steele designed a set of stained glass windows for Herman’s home. Brandt’s design appears on page 20 of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Winter 1994.

Herman P. was also the grandfather of Peter Lieber, aerial photographer (see below)

Robert Lieber and Carl Lieber

Sons of Hermann; patron and friend, respectively, of T.C. Steele’s son, Brandt

Circa 1905, Brandt Steele designed a cabinet for Robert Lieber’s home. The design appears on page 20 of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Winter 1994.


Brandt Steele

Brandt Steele (Photo from Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Winter 1994)

Son of T.C. Steele and his first wife, Libbie Lakin

Artist and designer

For an informative article about Brandt, see “Work Worth Doing: Brandt Steele, Designer and Potter” by Barry Shifman (Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Winter 1994; available from




Herman B Wells


11th president of Indiana University

Chancellor of Indiana University

Founded the Indiana University Press


Bernard Perry

Hired by Herman B. Wells as Founding Director of Indiana University Press

Father of Rachel Berenson Perry


Frederic (Fritz) Lieber

Great-grandson of Richard Lieber

Cousin of Kurt Vonnegut

Friend of James Capshew

Peter Lieber stands in front of a painting by T.C. Steele


Peter Lieber

Aerial photographer

Cousin of Frederic (Fritz) Lieber

James Capshew stands next to a bust of Wells


James Capshew

Professor of History and Philosophy of Science

Friend of Fritz Lieber

Biographer of Herman B Wells, Indiana University’s visionary educator (forthcoming from the Indiana University Press)


Image from

Kurt Vonnegut

Author and artist

Cousin of Fritz Lieber

Kurt’s parents, Kurt Sr. and Edith, were invited shortly after their wedding to join the Portfolio (often referred to as the Portfolio Club), an arts related organization founded by T.C. Steele.

Forthcoming biography of Vonnegut by Charles J. Shields:


Rachel Berenson Perry

Artist and art historian; author of T.C. Steele and the Society of Western Artists:1896-1914, published by the Indiana University Press, of which her father was the Founding Director

Member of the Portfolio (often called the Portfolio Club) in Indianapolis, an organization for artists and writers founded by T.C. Steele.

4 responses to “Small world

  1. Wonderful! In my book, I talk a bit about Kurt’s parent’s interest with the Arts & Crafts Movement. I blog about being Vonnegut’s biographer, if you’re interested at

    Charles J. Shields
    And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (Holt, November)

  2. Thanks for your meticulous research and fascinating connections.

    Rachel Perry

  3. Looking up a vintage art deco style painting/collage, (a fairy, painted with black on glass, over a background of milkweed silk and dried flowers) I was given, label in back of frame, “H. Lieber Co. Indianapolis.” Read about his store and the “Hoosier Group” of painters (T.C. Steele being one) on site of “The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.” Search led me to your site. Again, T. C. Steele and you connect Lieber and Steele to Kurt Vonnegut !! Love the connections. Also, looked into the “Hoosier Group” artists and enjoyed the art. (And not to mention, my sister and her family live in New Palestine, IN. ) Did not find out anything about my painting, however.

  4. Christy Kinnaird

    Hello, I knw this is a few years old, but I am a descendant of the Liebers and related to Vionneguts as well. Herman LIeber, above was my great great grandfather. Kurt Vonneguts Mother was a Lieber as well.

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