About John Quincy Adams

Short biography John Quincy Adams (1873-1933)

John Quincy Adams was born in Vienna on Dec. 23, 1873, the son of American tenor Charles Runey Adams (1834-1900), married (again) to Hungarian singer Nina Bleyer (1835-1899), both of whom were engaged at the Vienna Court Opera. Adams is a distant relative (but not a direct descendant) of the 2nd (John Adams 1735-1826) and the 6th American President (John Quincy Adams 1767-1848), after whom he was named. In 1879, the family moves to Boston, where Adams attends school. After the parents separated, Nina Bleyer/Adams returned with the children to Vienna in 1887, where Adams first took lessons at the Scheffler School of Painting in 1891 and then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts (Schillerplatz) from 1892-1896. He completed his artistic training in 1897 at the Munich Academy and in 1898 in Paris at the Académie Julian (exhibiting there until 1912). In 1902 he is accepted as a member of the Vienna Künstlerhaus, where he regularly participates in its exhibitions and receives all the prizes to be awarded.

In 1901 he marries Stefanie "Steffy" Sobotka (1881-1952), who previously converted by baptism (Protestant AB). The marriage was blessed with two daughters: Gladys (1902-1932), married Frank, who died tragically in a car accident in 1932, and Harriet (1905-1999), married Countess von Walderdorff, owner of the Goldener Hirsch hotel in Salzburg. The Adams have three grandchildren: Count Johannes Walderdorff, Salzburg (1936-), and Barbara (1927-1993) and Nina (1931-2010) Frank, Vienna and (after 1938 - as well as Steffie Sobotka/Adams/von Gutmann- due to racial persecution) in Belgium and the USA. John Quincy and Steffie Adams separated in 1919 and divorced in 1920. Steffie Adams remarried to Willy von Gutmann in 1921; John Quincy Adams remarried to Franziska (Francis) Zierhut (born 27.6.1903) in about 1930 or 1932 (24.5.1932). After a stay in the USA in 1929/30 and 1930/31, Adams returned in 1932 to Vienna and died of a stomach illness on March 15, 1933. He is buried at the Vienna Central Cemetery in an artistically designed (sculptor: Otto Hofner) grave of honor. His work was celebrated in two comprehensive exhibitions: in 1917 in the Vienna Künstlerhaus (69 works), and in 1986 in the exhibition "Viennese Society in Portrait" in the Academy of Fine Arts, Schillerplatz (exhibition and catalog with 62 works).

The artist

The artistic work of Adams includes (according to current research) about 500 works of painting and drawing in the fields of genre, landscape, and portrait painting. Stylistically and subject-wise, his works span a wide range, far beyond the often-publicized cliché of Adams as "painter of the beautiful, elegant Viennese lady".

After an early phase (until about 1900) in which Adams was attached to Historicism (Markart style) (Actress "Helene Odilon", 1903), he regularly stayed in Volendam, Holland, and produced partly large-format naturalistic genre paintings of fishermen and workers in muted colors (including "death prayer in the poorhouse of Volendam" 1903 or the tryptichon "a life's journey", 1905).

At the same time, he developed a painting style with rapid, fleeting brushwork and a reduced color spectrum in portraits (opera singer "Drill Orridge", 1907), sometimes unconventional (and controversial) subjects ("the operation", 1909), or representations, ("the painter and his family" - an Adam's family painting, 1908), which also contain ironic features ("the 7 executioners" - artist house colleagues critically examining a painting for admission to an exhibition, 1904, unfortunately lost; or "the comparison/the amateur", 1914). Art Nouveau-influenced nude studies ("nude study at lake Wolfgangsee," 1911) in free nature expand his artistic portfolio (although he is criticized in Künstlerhaus circles for being "too secessionist"). Adams begins to establish himself as a sought-after portrait painter. Clients from the aristocracy, the upper middle classes, and finally, as the highest honor, from the imperial family ("Portrait of Emperor Franz Josef," 1914; three portraits of Emperor Charles, 1916-17, some two dozen archdukes and archduchesses), make Adams the leading portrait painter in Vienna.

During the war 1914-1918 Adams is assigned to the art group of the war press corps and produces more than 50 paintings on practically all the war theaters on the Eastern (Gallicia, Ukraine), Southern (Dolomites), Adriatic (Pula), and Balkan fronts (Bukovina, Montenegro, Albania). In partly new, strong color tones, Adams documents both the horrors of war ("blown up bridge over the Pruth", 1915), landscape impressions ("Lovcensattel - last serpentine", 1916), propagandistic genre scenes ("my homeland", 1916/17), as well as portrait studies of generals ("Feldmarschall Ignaz Edler von Korda," 1915), officers ("Linienschiffsleutnant Rudolf Singule," 1916), and soldiers ("Kaiserjägerstudien," 1916) that are full of character.

In a new naturalistic, stringly expressionist style, he also depicts in his Skutari (Albania) paintings the everyday life of the population beyond idealized genre scenes.

After the end of the war, Adams concentrated only on portraiture. The often sophisticated, glamorous settings ("Kitty Countess Schönborn (remarried Baroness) Rothschild", 1916, "Countess Michael Karoly", 1918, "Marie Countess Traun", 1919) counteract the need for self-portrayal of an aristocracy deprived of its political and social position and titles, even its names. Adams counteracts this by using, on the one hand, new, unusual ("Christl Baronin Fries-Tersch", 1929) or - in the new era - unusually classicist ("Marie von Striberski", 1924) poses, and, on the other hand, increasingly subdued, Rembrand-esque coloring ("Alice Gräfin Harrach", 1919, "Madame de Portas", 1925), with increasingly impressionistic brushstrokes ("Mena Erbprinzessin zu Fürstenberg", 1927) as the hallmark of his portraits. The backgrounds of the portraits become more and more abstract, finally disappearing completely ("Alexander Fürst Dietrichstein zu Nikolsburg", 1927). Finally, the sitters are portrayed regardless of class, in simple, modern clothing and in a casual posture ("Mr William Stuard-Spaulding Jr", 1930; "Karl Egon Erbprinz zu Fürstenberg", 1929).

Even if Adams in his pictures remains attached to representationalism, a naturalistic "depiction", he, coming from the 19th century by birth and education, has arrived in the modernity of the 20th century, and can inspire all art and historically interested even in the 21st century.