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Adams, Wayman Self Portrait, No Date


Wayman Adams was born in Muncie. His father, Nelson Perry Adams, was a farmer and a self-taught artist. Wayman studied at the Herron Art Institute under William Forsyth and J. Ottis Adams. He studied with William Merritt Chase in Italy and with Robert Henri in Spain.

Adams had a studio in Indianapolis but spent much of his time at his New York studio. He established the Old Mill School in upper New York State in 1933. He was nationally recognized for his portraits, and completed six for the Governors’ Portraits Collection of the State of Indiana. Wilbur Peat, author of Portraits and Painters of the Governors of Indiana: 1800–1978, noted that Adams “employed his masterful artistic technique to reflect the individual character of his subject.” United States presidents Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding were among his subjects.

  • Self Portrait, n.d.
  • 37″ x 26″
  • Courtesy of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  • Keywords: paintings, portraits, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: people, men, painters, hats, tools, hands

The artist has made the tools of his trade especially prominent, especially the palette. His band hat has style, and the painting is whimsical and upbeat. The viewer is made to look up at the artist as he leads with his paintbrush. The paint is applied in a painterly fashion, allowing the brush strokes to exist as movement, color, and surface.

Some Points To Consider

  • Re-read to students Wilbur Peat’s quote about how Adams employed his masterful artistic technique to reflect the individual character of his subject.
  • Ask them why that is important in a portrait. Why is it important in this particular portrait? What more does a painting of a person tell us than a photograph? (Art 4.3.1, 4.4.1)
  • Ask students what theory or philosophy they think is evident in Adams’ self-portrait. What was his reason to create this painting in this style? Do they think he imitated what he saw in the mirror or painted the portrait by looking at a photograph? Are there any aspects of the painting that make them think he tried to express in the portrait how he felt about himself? (Art 4.3.1, 4.4.1)


Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Explain to students that a person chooses one profession but may have preferred a different one. Have them ask their parents what they would choose now if they had a chance to be whatever they want to be. Give students time to paint or draw their parents in the settings they describe.
  • Choose several works of art for display on easels or computer screens. Have the students establish criteria for judging artworks and write those in their journals. Then divide the class into jury panels of three to five students. Let the juries take turns studying each work of art and taking notes about them based on the judging criteria they have chosen. Ask each group to select one artwork that best meets their criteria. Have a representative from each jury panel describe to the class how his or her group determined which was the best artwork.