Clifford Isaac Addams

Artist Biography

Born in Woodbury, New Jersey, Clifford Isaac Addams was a tonalist known for his prints, etchings, watercolors, and oil paintings. Addams first studied architecture before winning the prestigious Cresson Traveling scholarship from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at age 23, which led him to study in Paris. In Paris, he discovered the atelier of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), known as the Académie Carmen, and married artist Inez Bates, who was a teacher there, and later, in charge of the school. Both he and Bates were such devoted apprentices of Whistler that Whistler became the godfather to their first child. In Paris, Addams likely became acquainted with other American painters like Robert Henri (1865–1929) and his circle. His work was included in the 1901 exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Gravers in London. After traveling in Venice and making prints between 1913 and 1914, Addams returned to London; during World War I, he enlisted in the Royal Navy and made drawings and pastels based on life aboard ship. During his time abroad, his work continued to be exhibited in the United States: at the 1906 Albright-Knox Gallery Annual, and by 1910, he was regularly exhibiting at National Academy of Design and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Forty-six of his etchings were included in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco, one of which was awarded a bronze medal, and seven etchings were shown at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1917, where he won the Frank Logan Prize. Among these etchings were scenes of New York and Philadelphia.

Returning to the United States in 1920, settling in Washington Square, New York City, Addams’s work was further recognized with prizes and by critics, resulting in a one-man show in 1923 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. In the mid-1920s, he concentrated on views of New York, emphasizing both architecture and urban dwellers, with a more mature style that combined his Whistlerian influences with an expressive brushwork that aligned him with the urban realists. An exhibition reviewer in 1923 noted “Addams has an extraordinary personal viewpoint. His work is a strange mixture of the most subtle nuances of color with a violent dramatic massing of light and dark.” By 1929, he was exhibiting regularly at the Society of Independent Artists, a progressive group of artists, rather than the National Academy. In addition to the aforementioned institutions, Addams exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and was a member of the Society of American Etchers and both the Chicago and Philadelphia societies of etchers. His work is included in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, among others.

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