The only member of the Hoosier Group of Indiana landscape painters without formal training, Richard Buckner Gruelle would none the less keep apace with his more fortunate contemporaries.
Born to a large family, Gruelle would find solace and inspiration in nature and in drawing. Though frequently chided by teachers for drawing during study time, he would receive remarkable encouragement from his mother.
He was forced to take a job as an apprentice house painter in 1863, and demonstrated such remarkable proficiency with color mixing that he was soon a partner in the business. By the age of sixteen he had grown weary of frequent bouts of lead poisoning and decided to become a portrait painter. During this period many people requested portraits of their recently deceased relatives, and this took up most of Gruelle's time.
He moved on to larger towns, eventually landing in Cincinnati, where he began painting landscapes on steel safes. He worked in several locations and positions and eventually settled in Indianapolis servings as an illustrator and easel painter. Through an acquaintance of President Benjamin Harrison, Gruelle was able to exhibit in the nation's capital, where he acquired prominent patrons and new friends. This led to a period of prosperity and varied tasks and led to Gruelle relocating to the East Coast. He would settle in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1910.
Though Gruelle was always self-conscious about his lack of formal training in comparison to other members of the Hoosier Group, he was able to transfer his affinity for nature across his canvas, regardless of the geographic location. His final works were of the marine scenes near his coastal home.
His works are in several major museums, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.