Considered as one of the most talented early Richmond artists, Charles
Conner was not only an artist but also a musician. He played the coronet in
the Conner Orchestra with his four older brothers, often playing solos.
Self-taught, he began his career as an industrial painter for Hoosier Drill
which later became International Harvester Company.
Conner became a close friend with John Bundy and began exhibiting his
works along side the Richmond group artists. A true plein-air enthusiast, he
would do much of his sketching and painting outdoors and would sleep in a
tent for months recording the Fountain City landscape. In 1887, he moved to
California with his brother Albert, also a painter. He spent the next eight
years painting the Pacific Coast before he would return to Richmond. It was
during this time that his painting improved immensely.
In 1904, Conner made a place for himself in the art world by having his
masterpiece, “Wet Night in February” exhibited in the main hall of the St.
Louis World’s Fair along side works by nationally recognized artists. This
same work was the sensation in the great exhibition of Indiana art shown in
Tomlinson Hall, Indianapolis in 1903. It was here that the work was selected
for the World’s Fair. But it was an art jury that then selected it to hang
in the prestigious Central Pavilion for thousands of visitors to see at the
Yet despite his talent and recognition, the most Conner ever received in
his lifetime for a work was $150. This work, “The Old Swimming Hole” was
purchased in part by Indianapolis philanthropist, Emil Deitz and the school
children of his hometown, Fountain City who collected $50 worth of pennies
to purchase the work. The painting is still owned by the Northeastern Wayne School
Tragically, he would die an early death in 1905. John Bundy considered
him the best painter within the Richmond Group and one can only speculate
what he might have accomplished artistically if he his life had not ended so