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Adams, John Ottis Wash Day, Bavaria, 1885


John Ottis Adams was born in Amity, in Johnson County. After two years at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, he left to become an artist. He studied at the Kensington Art School in London in 1872 and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Munich from 1880 to 1887. Then Adams formed an alliance with other Indiana Impressionist artists, called the Hoosier Group.

Adams set up portrait studios in Seymour, then in Martinsville, and eventually in Muncie, where he and William Forsyth began a partnership in 1888. Adams also painted with T. C. Steele at Metamora, and was strongly influenced by William Merritt Chase’s paintings exhibited at the Indiana State Fair circa 1896.

In 1898 Adams married Winifred Brady of Muncie, also an artist; their home in Brookville was built in the shelter of a great forest, prompting Adams and Steele to call it “the Hermitage.” Adams was an instructor at Indianapolis’s Herron Art Institute from 1904 to 1909. The Adamses spent part of each summer in Leland, Michigan, painting woodlands and sunsets, and in later life painted in Florida each winter.

  • Wash Day, Bavaria, 1885
  • 18 1/2″ x 23 5/8″
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Keywords: paintings, narrative, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: outdoors, trees, people, women, houses, Hoosier Group

Adams painted this while in Munich; the setting looks European. Notice the thatched roofs and the woman’s clothing. This genre painting is full of the details of daily life.

Some Points To Consider

  • Ask students how this scene from Munich in 1885 might compare with washday in Indiana at that same time. How does it compare with laundry day today? What does the painting tell us about daily life in 1885? (Art 4.1.1, 4.2.2)
  • John Ottis Adams was one of the Hoosier Group. Ask students to name other artists in the Hoosier Group and describe the effects their association had on Indiana art. (Art 4.1.1, 4.2.2)