Thornberry's Pasture, Brooklyn, Indiana (An Indiana Farm)

John Ottis Adams (American, 1851-1927)

Currently on View in P.2e
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  • Here, the setting sun leaves the foreground in deep shadow while the riverside and barn are cast in glowing autumnal light. The vertical composition places a strong emphasis on the trees that blanket the blue sky with their orange foliage.
  • In Thornberry’s Pasture, Adams achieved the Impressionist goal of capturing the light and atmosphere of not just a season, but of a specific time in the day.
  • In September of 1904, Adams was painting in Brooklyn, Indiana, a quick trip southwest from Indianapolis. It is no longer known, however, exactly where Thornberry’s pasture was located.

J. Ottis Adams was born in Amity, Indiana and settled with his family in Shelbyville, Indiana. The young Adams was fascinated with art and spent much of his time drawing. He enrolled in Wabash College but left a year later to study art at the South Kensington School in London where he came under the influence of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner, whose landscapes were of particular interest to Adams. He returned to Indiana and settled in Muncie. In 1880, Adams traveled to Munich to study at the Royal Academy with fellow Indiana artists Theodore Clement Steele and Samuel Richards. Adams studied drawing and painting at the Academy and then set up his own studio in Munich. When he returned to Indiana in 1887, Adams set up a studio in Muncie and began teaching art classes. In 1889, he and fellow artist William Forsyth opened the Muncie Art School, which lasted two years. Adams participated in a group show of Hoosier artists that traveled from Indianapolis to Chicago. A critic dubbed the artists in the exhibition The Hoosier Group. Two years later, Adams, Forsyth and Steele along with other artists in the area, formed the Society of Western Artists, the first organization dedicated to promoting the work of the region’s artists. In 1898, Adams and T. C. Steele purchased a house in Brookville, Indiana later known as the Hermitage. In 1901, Adams became one of the first teachers at the newly built John Herron Art Institute where he taught from 1902 to 1906. During the latter part of his life, Adams worked in Florida and Michigan as well as Brookville.

Brookville, just a few miles southwest of Indianapolis, was far removed from the bustle of the city. Although only a small town in Morgan County, it was easily accessible by railroad. Local historians do not remember the exact location of Thornberry’s pasture. In this picturesque view of an autumn afternoon, Adams achieves the impressionist goal of capturing the light and atmosphere of a specific moment. The setting sun leaves the foreground landscape in deep shadow, the grassy terrain dappled with sunlight, and the middle ground fully engulfed in a flowing autumnal light. Adams uses a vertical canvas to place a strong emphasis on the trees that blanket the blue sky with their orange foliage.


Wilbur David Peat. Pioneer Painters of Indiana, Indianapolis: Art Association of Indianapolis, Indiana, 1954. ASIN: B0007DFBR2

Owned by Winifred Brady Adams (wife of the artist); given to the museum by the sons of the artist

Object Information

John Ottis Adams (American, 1851-1927)
creation date
oil on canvas
29-1/4 x 22-1/4 in. (canvas)
35-1/2 x 28-1/2 x 2-1/2 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed, l.l.: J. Ottis Adams.
accession number
credit line
Gift of Robert Brady Adams, John Alban Adams, and Edward W. Adams
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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