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J. Ottis Adams Papers



Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Personal and Professional Materials

Exhibition Materials


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J. Ottis Adams Papers, 1882-1951 | Indianapolis Museum of Art Archives

By Eliza Sparacino

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Collection Overview

Title: J. Ottis Adams Papers, 1882-1951Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1886-1928

ID: M/001

Primary Creator: Adams, J. Ottis (John Ottis) (1851-1927)

Extent: 2.5 Linear Feet

Arrangement: The collection is arranged into three series: Personal and Professional Materials, Exhibition Materials, and Journals.

Subjects: Adams, J. Ottis (John Ottis) (1851-1927), Art, American -- Indiana, Art Association of Indianapolis, Indiana, Artists--Indiana--Biography, John Herron Art Institute, Society of Western Artists

Forms of Material: brochures, checklists, clippings (information artifacts), correspondence, exhibition catalogs, notes

Languages: English


John Ottis Adams was born in 1851 in Amity, Indiana, and studied painting at the South Kensington Art School in London and the Royal Academy in Munich. He was one of the original five artists of the Hoosier Group. Adams began an art school in Muncie, Indiana, where he met his future wife, Winifred Brady, who was one of his pupils. Their home, The Hermitage, in Brookville, Indiana, was known as the "Indiana Barbizon" and hosted artists and summer art classes. Adams was one of the founders of the Society of Western Artists and was involved in the establishment of the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis. This collection of materials includes exhibition catalogues related to Adams' professional interests and many journal articles describing Adams' work and the exhibition of his paintings.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The first series, Personal and Professional Materials, includes business cards, clippings, a postcard from the artist Clifton Wheeler, small black and white reproductions of the J. Ottis Adams painting The Gleaners, 1886, and an anonymous painting of Mary Queen of Scots, as well as the Adams family's inventories of the collection. The second series, Exhibition Materials, consists of exhibition catalogues, announcements, and art association bulletins. The last series, Journals, includes journals with articles about J. Ottis Adams, Winifred Adams, and other artists of the Hoosier Group.

Collection Historical Note

The landscape painter John Ottis Adams was born in 1851 in Amity, Indiana, a small town south of Indianapolis. He attended Wabash College in 1871, but left a year later for the South Kensington Art School in London to study under John Parker. Adams returned to Indiana in 1876, eventually settling in Muncie.

In 1880 Adams returned to Europe, traveling to the Royal Academy in Munich to study with Gyula Benczúr. In Munich, Adams met two other painters from Indiana, Theodore Clement (T. C.) Steele and William Forsyth. After seven years in Munich, Adams returned to Muncie and opened an art school there with Forsyth. Adams also taught classes in Union City and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

In 1895 Adams, Forsyth and Steele were invited to exhibit at the Athenaeum Building in Chicago with two other Indiana painters, Otto Stark and Richard B. Gruelle. The exhibition, sponsored by the Central Art Association of Chicago, was named "The Hoosier Group," and the term was associated with the five artists throughout their artistic careers. Also in Chicago that year, Adams, Forsyth and Steele joined with other regional artists to form the Society of Western Artists. The mission of the Society was to promote Midwestern art and exhibitions of work by Society members and other artists circulated through the region annually. Adams was president of the Society of Western Artists from 1908-1910.

Adams and Steele purchased an estate together in Brookville, Indiana in 1897, which was later named "The Hermitage." The Hermitage hosted visiting artists and held summer art classes for the public. A decade later Adams became the sole owner of the property and The Hermitage became one of the Adams' family residences.

A year after acquiring the Hermitage, Adams married a still-life painter from Muncie, Winifred Brady. Winifred was the sister of Elizabeth Brady, who married Frank C. Ball, co-founder of the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Business (now Ball Corporation) and one of the founders of Ball State University. Winifred met Adams in 1889 when she was a student at the Muncie art school he founded.

Adams was instrumental in establishing the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis in 1902 and taught drawing and painting there until 1906. During this time, the Adams family began summering in Leland, Michigan. By 1910 Adams was in poor health and began spending the winters in Florida. He moved back to Indiana permanently in 1926 and passed away a year later. Adams is buried in Muncie.

Subject/Index Terms

Adams, J. Ottis (John Ottis) (1851-1927)
Art, American -- Indiana
Art Association of Indianapolis, Indiana
John Herron Art Institute
Society of Western Artists

Administrative Information

Repository: Indianapolis Museum of Art Archives

Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.  Please contact the Archivist for more information.

Related Materials: An addition to this collection is available for research in the IMA Archives: J. Ottis Adams Papers Addition (M009). A related collection of primary source material documenting the life and times of J. Ottis Adams is also open for research in the IMA Archives: Reifel, J. Ottis Adams Research Collection (M010). For more information please see http://www.imamuseum.org/research/archives.

Preferred Citation: [Title of item], [Date],  [Container information], J. Ottis Adams Papers (M001), IMA Archives, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN.

Other URL: http://www.imamuseum.org/sites/default/files/attachments/archives-M001.pdf

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Personal and Professional Materials],
[Series II: Exhibition Materials],
[Series III: Journals],

Series I: Personal and Professional MaterialsAdd to your cart.
Box 1Add to your cart.
Folder 1: American Artists' Club, entertainment and informal dance, March 2, 1886Add to your cart.
Admission card and programme.
Folder 2: Archive inventories, n.d.Add to your cart.
Inventory details written on backs of book plates and copies of handwritten documents; some items have additional descriptive notes.
Folder 3: Biographical Dictionary Clippings, 1905-1913Add to your cart.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume 21, undated

The Artist’s Yearbook, 1905-1906

American Blue Book: Men of 1913, 1913

Folder 4: Charni's Americana, Card, n.d.Add to your cart.
Reproduction on card of J. Ottis Adams pen drawing.
Folder 5: Clippings, 1904-1910Add to your cart.
J. Ottis Adams exhibitions and prize announcements (some with handwritten notes); Article on Michelangelo from Blackwood’s Magazine, undated; Clipping with handwritten note, Indianapolis News, 2/3/1906; The Johnson, Muncie, Ind., card with handwritten note: "Where J. O. Adams had studio 1895-98".
Folder 6: Clifton Wheeler postcard, 1921Add to your cart.
Postcard from Clifton Wheeler to J. Ottis Adams and Otto Stark, January 9, 1921.
Folder 7: Ella Bond Johnston card, ca. 1916Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Gallerie Classischer Meister card, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 9: The Gleaners reproduction, n.d.Add to your cart.
Reproduction mounted on board of The Gleaners, 1886 (date is not inscribed). Inscription on recto, top right: "Ball State Univ / Art Gallery 8(?)/72"; verso: "The Gleaners / By J. Ottis Adams".
Folder 10: Mary Queen of Scots reproduction, n.d.Add to your cart.
Reproduction mounted on board. Inscription on verso in ink: "Mary Queen of Scots, going to her execution at Fotheringay Castle, Northamptonshire, England, Feb. 8, 1589" / "New Year’s Day, 1890"; bottom left: "Mrs Ryan’s picture now owned by Mrs Beatty".
Folder 11: The Society of Western Artists letterhead, n.d.Add to your cart.
Two leaves.
Folder 12: Summer sketching class in Brookville, 1910-1912Add to your cart.

June 15 - August 13,1910 [15 brochures]

June 12 - July 31, 1911 [3 brochures]

June 17 - August 30,1912 [3 brochures]

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Personal and Professional Materials],
[Series II: Exhibition Materials],
[Series III: Journals],

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