Elected ARSA: 14 November 1883 

Elected RSA: 10 February 1897 

The passing of ‘William Patrick Adam” (his baptismal name) cast a shadow on the closing days of the year, which had already been signalised by other breaches in the ranks of the Academy. Adam, “Pat” as he was generally called, though not young in years, was a creature of eternal youth. Born in Edinburgh in October 1854, the second son of Patrick Adam, S.S.C., he was an artist from his earliest years ; as one of his friends wrote, “Even if he had never painted anything, he would have been great.”


An Edinburgh Academy boy, afterwards at school in London, he subsequently studied in the Royal Scottish Academy school, when G. Paul Chalmers and William MacTaggart were visitors, and there distinguished himself. His first picture was shown at the Mound when he was only 18; elected an Associate eleven years later, he became an Academician in 1894, and till the end was a regular contributor to the exhibitions, and took the keenest interest in the welfare of the Academy, even after settling at North Berwick twenty-eight years ago, not long after his marriage.


‘Pp. W. Adam,” as he signed his work, was many- sided in his art. Portraits, landscapes, and buildings at home and abroad, subject pictures, still life, all attracted him, but in later years he devoted himself mainly to pictures of interiors, in which he achieved great mastery and gained wide recognition ; many of these are in public galleries, among others, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee. Oldham, Auckland, New Zealand, while in the Collection of The Scottish Modern Arts Association, Adam’s “Signet Library”? represents him almost at his best.


During the time of his residence in Edinburgh, Adam took a leading part in the artistic life of the capital. He was keenly interested in the drama, was a good actor, organised tableaux, arranged exhibitions, never sparing himself in helping his friends or any worthy cause. When circumstances admitted, especially in later years, he travelled extensively on the Continent, and spent several winters in Italy, working in Rome, Venice, Alassio, and elsewhere.


Adam was a prominent member of the Society of Eight in Edinburgh, at whose exhibitions his pictures were always a special feature. The Scottish Artists Benevolent Association found in him a keen supporter; for many years he served as Honorary Secretary, and was latterly Vice-President.


Adam/’s early friend and fellow-student, Mr. Robert Little, R.W.S., writes of him: ‘‘ There was from the first day I met him an air of goodwill to all in his bearing, an inborn refinement shining from his eyes. Although possessed with vitality—‘‘ joie de vivre ’’—he was deeply conscious of the mysteries, of which he spoke simply and naturally, without a trace of undue anxiety, to his friends, who felt themselves in the presence of one who was strangely familiar with the thought of leaving everything when called upon to do so.”’ Mr. Adam died on the 27th December 1929 at his residence, Ardilea, North Berwick.

Obituary, 1929 RSA Annual Report

Further Images

Patrick William Adam RSA (1854-1929) Morning

Oil on canvas, 1895, 114.7 x 64.6cm

RSA Diploma Collection (Deposited, 1897) 1994.081