The Landscape painter John Ottis Adams [1851-1927] was born 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. | © Indianapolis Museum of Art