JOHN CLAYTON ADAMS
John Clayton Adams was born in Edmonton in north London in 1840. He showed keen artistic promise from a young age and began his art education at the Bloomsbury Art School, before studying under the English landscape painter William Wilthieu Fenn. Adams began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in London from the age of nineteen and would continue to show over seventy-five paintings there over the course of his career.
Adams’ landscapes are characterised by his broad technique, use of rich colour and sensitive handling of light. Inspired by the southern counties of England, in particular Surrey, where Adams lived and worked from 1873 until his death in 1906; the majority of his landscapes depict beautiful scenes from this area. Adams also favoured the landscape of the Lake District in Cumbria and the Scottish landscape surrounding the picturesque River Tweed.
Adams' idyllic landscape scenes enjoyed great popularity in the later 19th century. Following the example of Benjamin Williams Leader, George Cole and his son George Vicat Cole, Adams produced pleasantly naturalistic landscapes, truthful in detail but in general idealised. In his oil paintings and watercolours Adams depicted nature as richly fertile but under human control, often incorporating harvesting and livestock into his subject matter. The rural idylls that Adams depicted bore little resemblance with the realities of the more severe rural life in the late nineteenth century, instead creating a romanticised ‘Arcadia’ where life’s pleasure and abundance appears everlasting. These landscapes were the result of nostalgia; for many second or third generation town and city-dwellers, rural life had become associated with the past and tradition. The rural idylls which paintings like these create had little to do with the realities of rural life in the 1870s and 1880s, which, due to a series of bad harvests, local taxation and other economic factors during these years, were actually experiencing a severe agricultural depression. Adams takes the viewer away from the increasing urbanisation of the Victorian era and brings harmony and peace to the English landscape.
Adams is one of the most individual and least recognised of the late Victorian landscape painters. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1863 to 1893 and also exhibited at at the Royal Society of British Artists. Today his work can be found in many private collections and art galleries across the United Kingdom, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Sheffield Museum, Sunderland Art Gallery and Reading Art Gallery.