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Charles W. Adams (1903 - ? )

Jefferson Market Library (Courthouse), c. 1930s, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, signed lower right; presented in a newer silver painted frame


About the Painting

Writing about an exhibition of Charles W. Adams’ work at the Eighth Street Art Gallery in the mid-1930s, Emily Grenauer observed in The World-Telegram that the artist’s paintings were “distinguished for their solid form, well organized design and sumptuous color” and the art critic for The Herald Tribune found Adam’s work “a strong, formal realization of his subject . . . he paints with vital emphasis on structure and composition.” Although we do not know which works these critics referenced, it is likely they were writing about paintings like Jefferson Market Library (Courthouse). With its carefully designed reality, strong angles, solid forms, and well-disciplined puffs of smoke in the background, Adams presents a highly structured version of the Greenwich Village landmark, the Jefferson Market Library, which was a courthouse at the time Adams completed this work. The Jefferson Market Library was a prized subject for downtown painters, including the Ashcan School painter, John Sloan, the modernist, Stuart Davis, and the precisionist, Francis Criss.

About the Artist

Charles W. Adams was an American painter who was born in Oklahoma but achieved success in the New York area. Adams received his first artistic training at Muskogee’s Central School from Dr. Adah Robinson who would subsequently head the art department at the University of Tulsa. Adams later studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before settling in New York where he pursued an acting career. After touring as Gerald March in The Green Hat, Adams returned to New York to continue his art studies at the Art Students League with Frank DuMond. During the mid-1930s, Adams maintained a studio on Washington Square before moving to New Jersey in 1937. He exhibited at the Salons of America (New York), Rockefeller Center (New York), Junior League Art Gallery (Oklahoma), and the Ridgewood Art Association (New Jersey). He was represented by New York’s Eighth Street Art Gallery and ACA Gallery, Concerning paintings shown at ACA Gallery, The New York Times art critic wrote, “The two canvases by Mr. Adams reveal considerable originality and real feeling for the medium.” Other praise for Adams work came from The New York Sun art critic who wrote Adams is” nothing if not modern in his outlook,” and The World-Telegram art critic noted his compositions were “authoritatively and sharply designed. . . noteworthy in their texture as well.” Adams participated in the New Deal’s Federal Art Project and exhibited his artwork at the Federal Extension Gallery in 1939. The 1940 census lists Adams as a portrait painter, while the 1950 census indicates he was a professional artist working for a publishing company. Adams is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and other standard references.


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