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American Portraiture: The Figurative Works of Wayman Adams


(above: Wayman Adams, Little Girl in Pink, n.d., oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, Collection of Charles and Susan Golden)


The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto announces the opening of American Portraiture: The Figurative Works of Wayman Adams. The exhibition, which opens March 26 and continues through June 6, 2004, celebrates the work of one of America's preeminent portraitists. (The exhibit travels to the Museum's facility at Ligonier Valley from June 18 and continues through August 29, 2004. Further information is included below)

Portraiture has occupied a central position in Western art and comprises, with landscape painting, the backbone of American art. During his day, Adams (1883 - 1959) was considered one of America's leading portrait painters, painting both the famous and ordinary, all with equal care and devotion. His quick brushwork, command of color and understanding of composition allowed him the flexibility to choose the Realist style of American Masters, Robert Henri and William Merritt Chase, characterized by dark and moody tones, and the Impressionist style. (right: Wayman Adams, The Ballerina, n.d., oil on canvas, 62 x 36 inches, Courtesy of Eckert Fine Art, Indianapolis, Indiana) 

Adams was born in 1883 outside of Muncie, Ind. The artistic interests of his father, a horse farmer, encouraged Wayman's early interest in art. As a young boy, he was considered a child prodigy, winning his first prize at the age of 12, and having one of his paintings, a portrait of a cow, acclaimed in a front-page newspaper article as a sensational achievement.

At 21, Adams enrolled in the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis in order to pursue a formal training in art. While there, he established a studio, where he would paint a number of his finest early portraits. In 1914, Adams received his first of many top awards. A portrait of Alexander Ernestinoff claimed Adams the Thomas R. Proctor prize at the National Academy of Design in New York.

Once established as a premier portraitist, Adams moved to New York City. Clients included the famous and not-so-famous, as well as many of the people he met in his travels. Presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, B.F. Goodrich, Irvin S. Cobb and Alice Longworth Roosevelt were a few who sat for the portraitist. His large painting of the famous Russian cellist, Gregor Piatiagorsky, won first prize in the Carnegie Institute's Painting in the United States. Adams also was a skilled watercolorist, lithographer, etcher, landscape and still-life painter, and sculptor.

A lifelong Quaker, Adams was a modest and kind man and was regarded as a brilliant virtuoso. Everyone who met him felt the warmth of his personality and the forthrightness of his character, and none failed to marvel at the magic of his paint-loaded brush. After a successful career as an award-winning artist, Adams suffered a heart attack and died in 1959. During his life, he was a member of the National Academy of Design, National Institute of Arts and Letters, National Association of Portrait Painters, Allied Artists of America, American Watercolor Society, New York Water Color Club, Philadelphia Water Color Club, New York Society of Painters, Art Club of Philadelphia, National Arts Club (Life), Salmagundi, and Lotos and Century Clubs, New York. (left: Wayman Adams, Mysterious Lady (Booth Tarkington's Sister-in-Law), n.d., oil on canvas, 27 x 22 inches, Private Collection) 

American Portraiture includes 50 works by this premier portrait artist, 3 of which are from SAMA's permanent collection. Other lenders to the exhibition include: Eckert Fine Art Galleries, Indianapolis; The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Richmond Art Museum, Richmond, Ind.; Greater LaFayette Museum of Art, LaFayette, Ind.; Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, Indianapolis; Spanierman Gallery, New York City; Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.; The Portfolio Collection at the Bona Thompson Memorial Center, Indianapolis; Ball State University Museum of Art, Muncie, Ind.; The Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain, N.Y.; Adirondack History Center, Essex County Historical Society, Elizabethtown, N.Y.; Sheldon Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, Ind.; The Charleston Renaissance Gallery, Charleston, S.C.; and several private collectors.

The Museum will hold a preview reception for the exhibition on Saturday, March 27.

The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto is located on the campus of Saint Francis University.

Editor's note: Below is information on the presentation of the exhibit at the Museum's facility at Ligonier Valley from June 18 through August 29, 2004.

The Museum will hold an opening reception for the exhibition on Friday, June 18. The reception begins at 7 p.m. Dr. Graziella Marchicelli, SAMA Fine Arts Curator and exhibition curator, will give a gallery tour.
The Museum will hold a Lunch a l'Art program on Wednesday, June 30. Margaret Bartley, author and art historian, will give the lecture. Bartley, a former educator for 26 years, now lives in New York's Adirondack Mountains, where she recently published a history of Wayman Adams' Old Mill Art School in Adirondack Life magazine.

rev. 6/10/04

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