Distinguished Scots architect, he was the third son of William Adam. He toured Italy (1760–3), accompanied by George Richardson, before joining the family firm in London. While in Italy he met Clérisseau, and the two men travelled to Rome. Adam visited Naples and Paestum, but his plans to see Sicily and Greece did not work out. His studies of Pompeian decorations and grotesques became important for his work as an interior designer, as The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam (1773–1822) proves. Although, by the time he returned to England, his brother Robert Adam had established the vocabulary of the ‘Adam style’, James must share in the credit for the many distinguished buildings under their joint authorship. In his own right he was responsible for the Ionic gateway at Cullen House, Banff (1767), Hertford Shire and Town Hall (1767–9), the façades of Portland Place, London (1776), and several buildings in Glasgow. In 1769 James succeeded his brother as Architect of the King's Works.
R. Adam & J. Adam (1975);Bolton (1922);Colvin (1995);D. King (1991, 2001);Rykwert & Rykwert (1985)