Herbert Adams


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Sculptor. A major figure in the American Renaissance, he is known particularly for portraits and allegories in the spirit of fifteenth-century Italian or French precedents. Born in West Concord, Vermont, Herbert Samuel Adams grew up in Fitchburg, not far from Boston, where he studied at the Massachusetts Normal Art School (now Massachusetts College of Art). In Paris he trained at the École des Beaux-Arts with Antonin Mercié. A deftly carved marble bust of his future wife, Adeline Valentine Pond (Hispanic Society of America, New York, 1887), demonstrates mastery of contemporaneous French taste for elegant naturalism and the impression of spontaneity. It also prefigures the numerous Renaissance-inspired, idealized likenesses of attractive women that remain his best-known works. Returning in 1890 after five years abroad, he settled permanently in New York. Several years later, he began summering regularly in Cornish, New Hampshire. Reflecting his involvement with ideals of the aesthetic movement, Adams often innovatively emphasized the decorative aspect of his works, particularly the female busts, by tinting his marble (or choosing colored variants) and adding ornamental elements of wood, metal, or semiprecious stones. While it suggests also the influence of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the portrait relief Singing Boys (Metropolitan Museum, 1894) directly recalls works by Donatello and Luca della Robbia. Several sets of bronze doors similarly demonstrate his creative allegiance to Renaissance examples. In addition to such work conceived on a relatively small scale, he successfully completed numerous architectural adornments and freestanding monuments, including the bronze William Cullen Bryant (1911) in Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library. His wife, art writer Adeline Adams (1859–1948), is best remembered for The Spirit of American Sculpture (1923). She also produced several monographs on individual artists, published numerous articles on art, and wrote short stories and poetry. Born in Boston, she began art studies at the Massachusetts Normal Art School in 1880. Following a brief teaching stint and further study in Paris, she married in 1889. She died in New York.

Subjects: Art.

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