WILLIS SEAVER ADAMS (1844-1921)

          Willis Seaver Adams, whose paintings reflected the beauties of the Connecticut River Valley landscape as well as his loneliness as an individual, was born on a farm near that river in Suffield in 1844. Adams attended Suffield Academy sporadically, aspiring to be a painter, but it is not known where he learned to paint. A wealthy Springfield doctor, impressed with his work, sent Adams to study at the Royal Academy in Antwerp in 1868, but Adams was forced to return to Springfield when his sponsor died soon after. Unable to make a living at painting, the artist worked for a photographer coloring crayon enlargements, and three years later set up his own studio.

          In 1876 a vacation in Cleveland lengthened into a two- year stay where Adams met other artists and busied himself organizing that cityís first water color exhibit, the Cleveland Art Club and Cleveland Academy of Fine Arts. A portrait of Ohio governor Rutherford B. Hayes, done before he became President, did much to enhance the artistís reputation. Returning to Europe in 1878, Adams established a studio in Venice and became friends with James Whistler who lived above him on the Grand Canal. Adams traveled around Europe, lived in Florence for three years, then returned to Springfield as an instructor for the Springfield Art Association. He began a long association with James D. Gill, at whose galleries Adams exhibited often, with his first one-man show occuring there in 1894.

          Although Adams had successful exhibits in other cities such as Boston, Chicago and New York, and his paintings brought good prices and critical success, he became discouraged that he was not getting enough recognition, and returned to his old home in Suffield. His style became less academic and he began to paint lonely landscapes he called his "oil miniatures" which formed the basis for all his later work. Adams had become something of a recluse, moving again in 1906 to a converted barn in Greenfield, Massachusetts. There he continued painting, but further isolated himself, turning to his dog "Collie" for companionship. With over 54 exhibits and some 425 watercolors, oils and drawings to his credit during his lifetime, Willis Seaver Adams died in relative obscurity in 1921. A Greenfield paper obituary said: "As has been the case with so many artists, Mr. Adams will have a posthumous fame, which would have been pleasing while living."

          A retrospective exhibit of Adamís works mounted at Deerfield Academy in 1966 provided a checklist of known works in its catalogue, many of which have not been located. The catalogue shows five works owned by Kent Memorial library ,and several privately owned by Suffield residents. The Wadsworth Atheneum owns "The Historian" c. 1881-84; and another painting belongs to Suffield Academy.





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