John Ottis Adams was born in July 1851 in the state of Indiana, USA. Adams became best known for his participation in the Hoosier Group along with other American Impressionists, as well as the Society of Western Artists, which he eventually became president. He established his career not only as a painter but as a teacher and mentor as well.
During his early years as a child, Adams’ parents constantly moved through different counties of Indiana. During his high school education in Martinsville, his artistic talents were noticed, firstly by his teacher, but soon by many others around him. Adams’ first significant encounter with the art world was in 1869 at the Indiana State Fair, when he was only eighteen years old. At the fair, he came in contact with a Still Life with Watermelon by William Merritt Chase, which had a deep impact on his desire to become an artist.
Adams studied for a couple of years in Crawfordsville at the Wabash College, despite his financial difficulties. In 1872, around the age of twenty-one, the painter moved to London, where he enrolled at the Royal College of Art. While studying the works of the great masters featured in the National Gallery, Adams discovered the idealized landscape of Romanticist painters J. M. W. Turner and John Constable. During this time, the American painter was employed at a photography studio, which gave him financial stability while studying his craft. He graduated in 1873 but continued in London for about another year as John Parker’s student.
John Adams returned to Seymour, his home town, in 1874 to officially begin his career as a portrait painter. He relocated to different areas in Indiana and finally settled in Muncie in 1876, where he became a prolific portrait painter. Adams had the cities most notable families as patrons. The painter also continued working with photography, as he did in London, most likely adding color to black and white photos.
In 1880, Adams joined a group of artists and sailed to Germany to study art, including Samuel Richards and Theodore Clement Steele. As financial support for his studies abroad, he sold various reproductions of Classic paintings found at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich to patrons based in America. The artist was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts for five years and lived in Munich for a total of seven years. Along with other American artists based in Germany, Adams formed a group later known as the Hoosiers. During this period, he was also the president of the American Artists Clubs of Munich, a position he filled for two years.
The American painter returned to the US in 1887, where he continued painting and also lectured. In 1889, Adams joined with his friend William Forsyth to open their own institution, the Muncie Art School. Although it lasted only a couple of years, the School had a significant effect on the local art scene. Adams and Winifred Brady married in October 1898 and had three children. She was a former student and still-life painter.
John O. Adams passed away at 75 years old in Indianapolis in January 1927. His health dramatically declined after having surgery to address intestinal issues.