J. Ottis (John Ottis) Adams
- Franklin County
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John Ottis Adams was born on July 8, 1851, in the small town of Amity, Indiana. His family moved frequently during his youth before settling down in Shelbyville, IN. From an early age, Adams was fascinated with art and spent as much time as he could drawing and painting.
He enrolled in Wabash College in 1871, only to leave after a year to study art at the South Kensington School in London. During this time, Adams was particularly influenced by the works of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner. Both artists focused on landscape subjects, and their approaches to light and shadow and subject matter shaped Adamsâ€™ future preferences for landscape subjects.
Soon after receiving a certificate from the school, attesting to his abilities and study, Adams returned to Indiana and settled in the town of Muncie. He remained there for four years and began to build a reputation as one of the finest portraitists working in the state.
In 1880, though, Adams left for Europe once again. This time, he traveled to Munich to study at the Royal Academy in the company of fellow Indiana artists Theodore C. Steele and Samuel Richards. Adams studied for two years in one of the Academy’s drawing schools before being admitted to the painting school of Ludwig von Loefftz. After studying with Loefftz for three years, Adams set up his own studio in Munich. He spent the winters in the cosmopolitan city and summered in the surrounding countryside, pursuing his interest in painting out-of-doors.
Adams left Munich in 1887 and returned to Indiana, and set up a studio in Muncie and began teaching art classes there, as well as traveling to the Fort Wayne and Union City to lead classes. In 1889, Adams and his friend William Forsyth opened the Muncie Art School, offering a wide variety of classes for prospective students. This endeavor would last for two years, yet Adams would remain in the town for an additional ten years, teaching and serving as a much-valued mentor to the area’s young artists.
In the fall of 1894, Adams participated in the highly praised group show of several Hoosier artists that traveled from Indianapolis to Chicago. The paintings were warmly received by the Chicago art critics, one of which seemed to express disbelief that Adams, a resident of small town in Indiana, could produce such impressive work.
Two years later, Adams, Forsyth, and Steele joined with other regional artists to form the Society of Western Artists. This was the first organization of its kind, dedicated to promoting the work of the region’s artists and serving as a forum for new artistic ideas and practices.
In 1898, Adams and T.C. Steele purchased a rambling house in Brookville, IN with the intent of creating studios and living quarters for themselves and their respective families. The house, later known as the Hermitage, and surrounding area reminded Adams of the small European towns he had visited while in Europe and provided him with ample opportunities to pursue his preferred genre of landscape painting.
Adams married Winifred Brady in Indianapolis later that year, and the two moved to the Hermitage in the spring of 1899. The two of them enjoyed the solitude of the countryside, yet began to spend the winter months in Indianapolis, where they could continue their involvement in the capital’s cultural activities.
In 1901, Adams became involved in Art Association of Indianapolis’s plans for a formal art school and museum. The John Herron Art Institute opened in 1902 and, soon afterwards, Adams joined the faculty as a drawing and painting instructor. Adams resigned from his post in 1906 so that he and his family could live year-round in Brookville. He continued teaching for at least a few more years, however, through a summer landscape school he created.
During a period of convalescence in Florida, Adams became interested in exploring and painting sup-tropical landscapes. He began to spend the winter months working in Florida, often accompanied by his son Edward and his friend and colleague, Otto Stark.
During the last years of his life, Adams would work as often in Florida and Michigan, at his family’s summer home, as he would in Brookville. He returned in Indiana, for good, in 1926. He was quite ill, and per his doctor’s suggestion, underwent an operation for an intestinal disorder. Adams recovered after the surgery, and died on January 28, 1927.
The following biographical information was submitted by a site visitor:
John Ottis Adams (1851-1927) was a leading landscape painter originally from Amity, in Johnson County, Indiana. He was well taught in both America and Europe, and later received his Master of Arts honor from Wabash College. He became known as one of the five men from the Hoosier Group along with T.C.Steele, William Forsyth, Richard B. Gruelle, and Otto Stark. Along with Steele he shared a house with separate studios in the town of Brookville in Franklin County, Indiana called the Hermitage. He went on to establish an art school in Muncie where he married his pupil, Winifred Brady. Adams later became the first painting and drawing teacher at the new Herron School of Art. He painted in Florida with Forsyth later in his life but returned to Indianapolis in 1926. He died in 1927 and is buried in Muncie.
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