Artists & Architects

Herbert Adams1858 - 1945

place of birth: United States of America , Concord
place of death: United States of America , New York

ANA 1898; NA 1899; PNAD 1917 - 1920

Adams was raised in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and studied at the Worcester Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston. In 1885, on the advice of fellow-sculptor Olin Warner, he went to Paris where he studied drawing under Boulanger and Lefebvre and sculpture under Antonin Mercié, who especially instilled in him an adherence to academic traditions and a love of Renaissance models. His realization of the influence of Europe on American artists was stated some years later when he wrote, "Whether we studied in Italy or France or remained at home, the trend of American sculpture naturally followed that of Europe, though, when at its best, with a certain tang of its own." Adams's earliest known works date from his Paris years: a fountain, 1888, for Fitchburg, the town of his youth; and a bust of Adeline Valentine Pond (1859-1948) (Hispanic Society of America, New York). The latter was modeled in Paris in 1887 and was shown at the Paris Salon the following year. The bust brought Adams some attention and represented a genre for which he would become most well known. His relationship with the subject was made permanent when he married her in 1889. As Adeline Adams, she became famous in the first quarter of the twentieth century as an art critic and author, notably of The Spirit of American Sculpture (1923; revised 1929) and of many of the sculptors' biographies which she wrote for the Dictionary of American Biography. On returning to American in 1890, Adams took a position at the newly formed Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he remained for eight years. As the decade progressed, so did the number of his major sculptural commissions. These included the doors for the Library of Congress, a commission originally granted to Adams' old friend, Olin Warner; on Warner's death, Adams took over the work and finished the doors based on Warner's conception. By the turn of the century, Adams was among the leaders in the field of American sculpture. In the late 1890s, he began spending his summers at Cornish, New Hampshire, near the studio and home of his friend Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The influence of that artist on Adams is seen in such works as The Singing Boys, 1894 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and to some degree in the monumental William Cullen Bryant Memorial, 1911 (Bryant Park, New York). Adams first exhibited at the Academy in 1898, the year of his election as Associate, and continued to be represented in the Annuals almost every year through the 1930s. His Nymph of Fynmere (private collection) was exhibited in the Winter Exhibition of 1915, and--most unusually--reappeared in the Winter Exhibition of 1916, when it was awarded the first Elizabeth N. Watrous Gold Medal. Adams's energetic involvement in the art world continued throughout his long life. He was a member of the Society of American Artists; the National Sculpture Society, for which organization he twice served as president and, in 1933, was made honorary president for life; the Art Commission of the City of New York; and the Federal Commisssion of Fine Arts. He served as trustee for the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy at Rome, and the Hispanic Society of America. He was named president of the Saint-Gaudens Memorial in 1933, a post he held until his death. Adams was directly involved in governance of the NAD almost continuously from 1902 into 1925: in 1902 he was elected to a three-year term on its Council, at the conclusion of which, he became vice president of the Academy, and was reelected to that position annually through 1914. In 1917 Adams was elected president of the Academy, and again, was twice reelected--only the second sculptor to have held the office. In 1922 he was returned to the Council for a final three-year term. In 1938 he was awarded the NAD President's Medal for "distinguished service to art."


  • The Rabbi's Daughter


    Overall: 18 1/2 × 14 × 9 1/2 in.

    Bronze NO BASE

    Credit Line
    National Academy Museum, New York

    This bust is part of a series of images of women that Adams began in 1887 with the bust of his future wife, Adeline Pond. The series includes portraits, as in the bust of Adeline, and ideal works, as in La Jeunesse (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), done in the early 1890s, about the same time as The Rabbi's Daughter. The source for Adams's conception of The Rabbi's Daughter is not known, although it may be a portrait. It is not unlike the bust of Adeline Pond, although a certain amount of idealization in both works must be taken into account. Adams is known to have used earlier portrait busts as the basis for later ideal figures. Lorado Taft confused this work with La Jeunesse, which he described under the title of The Rabbi's Daughter in his History of American Sculpture. Taft also wrote that The Rabbi's Daughter was shown at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo; however, this may be an extension of his confusion of the two busts. The exposition catalogue number 1481 is Portrait of a Lady (Bronze), a title that could apply to either work. Katherine Holler, who evidently knew the bust only from a photograph, mistook it for a work in polychrome marble. No replicas or copies of The Rabbi's Daughter are known. Adams apparently fulfilled his National Academy election requirement on a provisional basis, perhaps to be sure to abide by the one-year deadline to do so. The acceptance of his diploma presentation is not recorded in Academy minutes. However, it is clearly the plaster of The Rabbi's Daughter that is seen in the background of a photograph of the annual Academy banquet of 1900, the social conclusion to the annual meeting, at which Adams took his seat as a qualified Academician. Evidently he had replaced the plaster with the present bronze sometime before preparation of the 1911 catalogue of the collection, in which this work is listed as a bronze.