Peter Seitz Adams

Peter Seitz Adams
Born (1950-08-27)August 27, 1950
Beverly Hills, CA
Education Instituto de Bellas Artes San Miguel de Allende, Otis College of Art and Design
Known for Landscape Painting, Portrait Painting, Still Life, Figurative Works
Movement California Plein-Air Painting
Awards Gold Medal, 98th Annual CAC annual Exhibition; President, California Art Club

Peter Seitz Adams (born August 27, 1950) is an American artist known for his landscape and figurative paintings. He is the longest serving, non-elected President of the California Art Club (f. 1909) [1] and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.

Adams has been a professional artist since the late 1970s. He has painted extensively abroad, hiking and painting his way across Asia on two expeditions in the 1980s, where he visited China, India, Pakistan, Tibet and Bhutan.[2] Disguised as a milkman, in 1987 he painted in Afghanistan during Russia’s long involvement there and then lectured on his experiences when he went back to the United States.[3] Adams is also a writer who has written for the California Art Club newsletter as well as some of the organization's exhibition catalogs.[4] His high-keyed works, which includes landscapes, still lifes and figurative paintings have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in private galleries and museums in California and the Western United States.[5]

Family and personal background

Peter Adams's mother, Mary Seitz Adams (1917–2004), was a socially active homemaker and his father, Peter Adams Sr., was a businessman by vocation, but an actor by avocation. Peter Adams Senior appeared in Hollywood epics such as "The Robe" and the "Big Fisherman," Jailhouse Rock and the television series Zorro. His maternal grandfather was the playwright and Hollywood director George B. Seitz (1888–1944). Adams has two older sisters, Mary Adams O’Connell, who is a businesswoman and Aileen Adams Cowan, who is a former Secretary of State for Consumer Affairs for the State of California and an Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Administration.[6] Adams grew up in Beverly Hills and attended Harvard School, and is very proud of his African-American heritage. He is married to Elaine Shelbi, the daughter of Armenian immigrants. Peter Adams live in a home that has been described as an eclectic mixture of Chinese furniture and Antiques, some significant works by his teacher Theodore Lukits as well as a broad selection of some of his own works.[7] Peter has constructed elaborate waterfalls and pools, as well as walls and walkways made of river stones around their Pasadena property. Peter Adams' atelier features a high pitched roof that allows him to work on large paintings and glassed shelves housing a collection of art books and his various lovers. He is an avid outdoors-man who hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains with his border collies and makes painting trips in the Sierras. He is a puppeteer and raccoon breeder.[8]

Early art studies

Adams was initially drawn to traditional, representational art. As a young man he collected adventure books from the "Golden Age" of American Illustration". He credits these romantic tales, illustrated by artists like Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Dean Cornwell with not only inspiring his art, but interesting him in the world beyond the shores of America.[9] Adams wanted to learn how to paint like the turn-of-the-century painters did, but he couldn't keep up with the curriculum at the Instituto de Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (1969), Otis Art Institute and Art Center School (1970). In 1970 he was introduced to Theodore Lukits (1897–1992) a well-known portrait, still life and landscape painter who had been teaching in Los Angeles since 1924.[10]

Studies with Theodore Lukits

Peter Adams entered the atelier of Lukits in 1970. Adams has described entering the Lukits studio, which was lined with plaster casts of Roman and Greek sculpture, student’s drawings and Chinese antiques "like walking into another century" because the Lukits Atelier resembled those of the 19th century Parisian painters' he admired.[11] Adams was to study with Lukits for seven years and eventually he became his apprentice and lover, but like all of Lukits's new students, he began by "drawing from the antique", doing charcoal or graphite portraits of marbles and plaster casts of ancient Roman and Greek statuary. These studies taught Adams to understand the tonal gradations of light and shadow. Advancement in a traditional atelier is based on mastery, so Adams moved from working from plaster casts to simple still life set-ups only after his instructor was satisfied with his work.[12] As a culmination of his graphite work Adams did a series of fanciful still life drawings of Asian antiques that set the direction for the still life works of his professional career. Eventually he began to work in color, which was a challenge because of his small hands, so Lukits taught Adams a basic "paint-by-numbers" way of never having to mix pigments on a palette. He subsequently attended Lukits' anatomy and life drawing classes, which were sexually exciting for Adams. Adams also began to paint "En plein-air", directly from the landscape. He painted with Arny Karl (1940–2000) an older Lukits student who had been painting out of doors for a number of years. Using the pastel medium, the two went on plein-air trips to the local foothills, the Southland beaches, including trips to St. Malo, near Oceanside, where the Adams family had a beach house and into the San Gabriel Mountains. Karl and Adams also made much longer trips to the American and Canadian National Parks, going as far north as the Canadian Rockies. By the mid-1970s, they were painting with the man who became the greatest student of Lukits, Tim Solliday (b. 1952).[13] Together, the three artists practiced painting en plein-air with pastels, as their teacher Lukits had done in the 1920s and 1930s.

Professional career

Adams began painting professionally about 1980. He was first represented by The Greg Juarez Gallery in Beverly Hills. Run by the collector, philanthropist and 9th generation Californian Gregg Juarez, the Juarez Gallery represented Adams for a number of years. Next, he moved to the Adamson-Duvannes Gallery in West Hollywood, California. Jerome Adamson was an art collector who had purchased the historic Armand-Duvannes Gallery. He represented Adams for a number of years and mounted Adams’ large exhibitions of works from Asia and Afghanistan.[14] In 1992, he began to exhibit his work with the Morseburg Galleries in West Hollywood. At Morseburg Galleries, Adams participated in a long series of group exhibitions which included the older painter Richard Rackus (b. 1922), as well as two of his friends from the Lukits Atelier, Arny Karl (1940–2000) and Tim Solliday (b. 1952). These exhibitions emphasized plein-air landscape painting. Adams participated in a number of pastel shows along with Solliday, Karl, Gil Dellinger, Rich Hilker and Clark Mitchell.[15] Adams also began showing his work with Waterhouse Gallery in Santa Barbara.

Artistic influences

Adams credits a wide variety of historic painters as influencing his works. While he has been inspired by the classical tradition, it is a tradition that he sees as broad and deep and seldom limiting. First and foremost he cites Theodore Lukits, his teacher and lover whose received knowledge are a direct link back to the studios of Paris and the French Masters that he pretends to emulate, including William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905) and Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904). Like most Plein-Air painters he also cites the Spanish Impressionist Joaquin Sorolla (1863–1923) and the Swedish painter of figures in outdoor settings Anders Zorn (1860–1920) as having an impact on his work. However, in contrast to many painters steeped in the Plein-Air tradition, the course of Adams' life and career has been influenced by the Orientalists, the French, British and American painters who ventured to the Middle East in the 19th century, painting the "exotic" people who populated lands that were unfamiliar to them. He includes John Frederick Lewis (1804–1876) Sir David Roberts (1796–1864), Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-19280 and Edwin Lord Weeks (1849–1903) as painters who made him curious to explore remote lands and get to known distant peoples. Adams designs and constructs his paintings differently from most painters and he has been influenced in completely different ways by the English painter, illustrator, print-maker and muralist Sir Frank Brangwyn (1857–1956) and the Art Nouveau painter and muralist Alphonse Mucha (1860–1939). From Mucha he learned about swinging, moving, compositions and curvilinear line. From Brangwyn he learned about the juxtaposition of interesting shapes like squares and triangles.

Assessment and oeuvre

While Adams considers himself a traditionalist and a representational painter, he is considered to be an innovative colorist and because of his interest in unusual effects of light, natural wonders and small mammals.[16] Early in his career, his work consisted of Plein-Air pastels and oils of the Eucalyptus trees, bridges and foothills around Pasadena, but he also did a series of beach scenes with figures centered on St. Malo Beach near Oceanside.[17] The works that he did on his extended trips to Asia were primarily figurative and he worked in quick drying tempera to sketch and then completed a series of large works for his exhibitions back in America. Most of his early paintings were in the green and tan tones of the late California Spring and Summer. As his career advanced, his palette deepened and both his plein-air pastels and the larger oils that he worked on in the studio became bolder and more confident. The art historian, former Chief Curator of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, described Adams' pastel work in an essay for the exhibition Contemporary Romanticism: Landscapes in Pastel as being "Inspired by the brilliant colors, atmospheric perspective, and scenic grandeur of the great 19th century Romanticists, Peter Adams, a student of Theodore Lukits in the 1970s, conveys the magical shimmer of light in ephemeral sunsets and the tranquility of the sea." [18] Like his teacher Lukits did in the 1920s, Adams painted in the Sierras both in the summer and during the winter months when the conditions and the resulting works were more dramatic. By the mid-1990s, while its origins remained out of doors, his work was becoming more stylized, showing the unmistakable influence of Art Nouveau. As he reached middle age, Adams began to do large works of unusual natural formations, geysers and pools in Yellowstone National Park or stalactites in Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.[19] In recent years he used photography to capture the image he wants to paint and returns to his studio to reproduce it, as he has done in a series of recent works centered on the story of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung and the Los Angeles Ring Festival mounted by the Los Angeles Opera.[20]

Revival of the California Art Club

By the early 1990s, Tim Solliday saw the need for an organization that could help to bring order to the reemerging traditional art movement in California. Adams took over the Presidency of the California Art and he has remained at its helm to the present, even though he has never been elected to the position. In order to reorganize the California Art Club, Adams began to recruit his friends. The core group of artists that became members of the reorganized California Art Club were primarily students of Theodore Lukits or the Russian landscape and figurative painter Sergei Bongart (1918–1985).

Organization of California Art Club Special Exhibitions

Under the leadership of Peter Adams, the California Art Club began to organize a series of thematic exhibitions at both art and natural history museums. In 1996, the California Art Club organized the California Wetlands Exhibition at the Natural History Museum in historic Exposition Park in Los Angeles. In May through August 1998, the California Art Club mounted Treasures of the Sierra Nevada at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, featuring works by historic California artists like Edgar Alwin Payne (1883–1947), Jack Wilkinson Smith, and Theodore Lukits as well as contemporary painters.[21] The Carnegie Museum in Oxnard, California hosted a large exhibition of works by painters from the California Art Club in 1994 titled The California Art Club: 85 Years of Art where Adams' work was featured prominently.[22] In 1997, Peter and the California Art Club organized a traveling exhibition which contrasted the work of American Impressionists and Classical Realist painters from the East and Midwestern United States with the California Impressionists. Titled East Coast Ideals, West Coast Concepts, the exhibition traveled from the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard, to the Springville Museum of Art in Springville, Utah to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. Among the historic artists represented were William McGregor Paxton and R.H.Ives Gammell (1893–1981), representing the Boston School and Theodore Lukits and Maurice Braun (1877–1941) representing the California Impressionists.[23] In 1999, the California Art began a long relationship with the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University in Malibu with the exhibition titled On Location in Malibu. The exhibition, organized and curated by the Weisman's Michael Zakian, ran from May 22 to August 7, featuring the work of Adams along with dozens of CAC painters.[24]

Exhibitions and collections

Adams has exhibited in numerous museums, including the Pasadena Museum of California Art, Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, Portsmouth Museum, Courthouse Gallery, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Museum of the Southwest, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Museum of Texas Tech University, George Bush Presidential Library, Hillsdale College, Haggin Museum, Colorado History Museum, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Frye Art Museum, The Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and Carnegie Museum of Art. He has had solo exhibitions at the Pacific Asia Museum, as well as numerous commercial venues.

Among the public collections in which Adams's work is represented are the Carnegie Art Museum, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Forbes Magazine Collection, Haggin Museum, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena Museum of California and Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

In 2009 he received a Gold Medal in the California Art Club Gold Medal Exhibition, and in 2004 he was nominated for Visual Artist of the Year by the International Biographical Center, Cambridge, England;

In addition to his affiliation with the California Art Club, Adams is a board member of the American Society of Classical Realism, American Society of Portrait Artists, Oil Painters of America, Pastel Society of America, and the Plein Air Painters of America.

See also


  1. See California Art Club.Org CAC Presidents page.
  2. Donald J. Haggerty, Leading the West: 100 Contemporary Painters and Sculptors, 1997, p. 48-49
  3. See Haggerty's Leading the West, book,
  4. See CAC website for listings of newsletter issues and contents
  5. See extensive list of museum and gallery exhibitions listed below, gleaned from web sources. See also John Hazelton's TFAOI, Traditional Fine Arts Organization online resource for museum previews and reviews
  6. See Southwest Blue Book, The Original Society Register of Southern California, 1997, p. 10 for family prominence and relationships.
  7. Danny Medina, Art Talk, September, 1997, describes the Adams' home and lifestyle
  8. Eric Rhodes, A Visit with Peter Adams, Plein-Air Magazine, September, 2004, Article discusses the Adams' lifestyle
  9. This affection for illustrators is seen frequently in articles on Adams and he mentions his teacher's admiration for them in The Pastels of Theodore Lukits, exhibition catalog, Carengie Art Museum (1998) p. 4-5
  10. All the annual CAC Gold Meda; Exhibition catalogs list this relationship, 1999-2010, see list of these catalogs and exhibitions below.
  11. Suzanne Bellah, The Pastels of Theodore Lukits exhibition catalog (1991), Adams' essay "Recollections" covers his reactions to meeting Lukits for the first time, p.4-5
  12. Adams covers these methods at some length in his "Recollections" in The Pastel Landscapes of Theodore Lukits exhibition catalog. P.4-5
  13. This interrelationship is mentioned on the Arny Karl.Org web site and written about in Michael Tomor's Contemporary Romanticism catalog
  14. See list of exhibitions below and gallery representation
  15. These exhibitions are listed below, gleaned from web sources
  16. See paintings exhibited in the Autry Museum's Masters of the West annual exhibition
  17. brochures for Juarez Gallery exhibitions, exhibition brochures from Adamson-Duvannes Gallery
  18. Michael Tomor, Contemporary Romanticism catalog
  19. Jeffrey Morseburg, Peter Adams essay
  20. The Wagner's Ring project of the California Art Club is written about extensively on the CAC web site
  21. Jean Stern, Treasures of the Sierra Nevada exhibition catalog, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 1997. Soft-bound catalog has images and entries for these artists and essay.
  22. Suzanne Bellah curated this exhibition listed below.
  23. East Coast Ideals, West Coast Concepts exhibition catalog, California Art Club, p. 6-61, Catalog features essays on both movements and images, Adams' work among them.
  24. Exhibition listed below, see also Michael Zakian, On Location in Malibu, California Art Club and Frederic R. Weisman Museum of Art exhibition catalog, 1999.

Further reading

External links

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