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collections > permanent collection > paintings >Wayman Adams
Wayman Adams
(American, 1883-1959)
Portrait of George Laughlin III, 1919
Oil on canvas, 47 1/8” x 36”
Gift of William R. Blair (97.262)


Alla prima (one sitting) portraits were a specialty of Wayman Adams, whose virtuoso painting technique was likened to that of a swordsman or tennis player.  The Museum’s Portrait of George Laughlin III is a fine example not only of the artist’s deft brushwork, but his intuitive ability to capture the essence of his subject.  Here, the slightly distorted proportions of the seated figure emphasize the chest and shoulders, underscoring the sitter’s military bearing; yet the expressively clasped hands suggest an inner sensitivity that lies behind the martial façade.


A native of Muncie, Indiana, Adams studied at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis before completing his training in Europe under William Merritt Chase and, later, Robert Henri.  Chase and Henri were powerful influences on Adams, who took to heart each instructor’s emphasis on working quickly and with first impressions.  After winning his first major prize at the National Academy of Design in 1914, Adams’ career quickly accelerated, and by the 1920s, he was a nationally recognized portraitist working out of several studios in Indiana and New York.  Among his many notable sitters were U.S. presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover; at the same time, Adams loved to paint ordinary people from all classes and vocations.  Later in his career, the artist moved to Austin, Texas, where he lived and worked until his death in 1959.