Wash Day, Bavaria

John Ottis Adams (American, 1851-1927)

Not Currently on View
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The careful composition and solidly-rendered female figure shows Adams’s technical skill in the Academic tradition, though the sunlit courtyard is brighter than typical Munich School paintings.

When Adams learned of Indiana artists traveling to Munich in 1880, he decided to join even though he was already a well-respected artist in Muncie and had received European training at London’s South Kensington School between 1872 and 1874.

Adams did not send a picture from Munich home for exhibition until Wash Day, Bavaria in 1886. He favored this painting and hung it in a prominent location in his Muncie home.


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.

Shown in New York in 1886, Wash Day, Bavaria is the first painting Adams sent to America for exhibition. It may be surprising the artist would have chosen this kind of simple scene from everyday life for his debut. The the diagonal lines of the grass and clothesline draw the viewer to the woman hanging her laundry. Although the forms are solidly rendered in the academic tradition, this sunlit canvas is brighter and richer in tonality than the dark scenarios preferred by the Royal Academy. Adams always favored Wash Day, Bavaria and hung it in a place of prominence in his studio when he returned to Muncie.


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 sons of the artist

Object Information

John Ottis Adams (American, 1851-1927)
creation date
oil on canvas
18-1/2 x 23-1/4 in.
24 x 28-3/4 x 2 in. (framed)
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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