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Indiana Governor Portrait Artist: Wayman Adams (1883 - 1959) - Durbin

Wayman Adams

Artist, Indiana Governors' Portrait Collection

Winfield Taylor Durbin

Winfield Taylor Durbin (1847-1928)
Governor of Indiana
January 14, 1901-January 9, 1905

Artist: Wayman Adams, American, 1883-1959
oil on canvas, 43 1/8 x 36 1/8 (109.5 x 91.7)
Signed l.l.: Wayman Adams

THE OFFICIAL portrait of Winfield T. Durbin is listed as the work of Seymour Thomas, New York artist, in Mary O. Burnet's roster of artists who painted the governors. (1) It is not known, however, whether a Durbin portrait was ever actually painted by Thomas. (2) The present portrait of Governor Durbin is the work of Wayman Adams and is one of six by this artist in the State House. The painting is not dated, but according to the local press it was completed and hung in 1920, fifteen years after Durbin's retirement from office. (3)

It is difficult to account for this lapse of time. Durbin did not want the legislature to pay for his portrait so he arranged with Wayman Adams to paint it with the intention of donating it to the state. The reports of the State Library, which frequently refer to the governors' portraits, speak of this gap in the collection between 1908 and 1916 and reiterate Durbin's promise to supply the missing item.

Durbin should have been very pleased with his portrait when it was finally hung. Adams has depicted him in a quiet, thoughtful mood, facing his audience squarely and holding on his lap a magazine or newspaper. Patches of stark white produce a crisp note, a harmonious balance to an otherwise dark palette. The pose is natural and the head well drawn. The paint is applied with facility yet with a restraint and propriety befitting this subject. Durbin has the appearance of a successful businessman with a face that suggests a forceful personality.

The eminent portrait painter Wayman Adams was born in Muncie in 1883. Having copied the works of his father, a self-taught artist, Adams went on to study at evening classes at the John Herron Art Institute. In 1910 he went to Italy to study under William Merritt Chase, who was conducting classes in Florence, and in 1912 he went abroad again, accompanying Robert Henri to Spain. He had already opened a studio in Indianapolis, and upon his return from Europe he continued his work here as a portrait painter. A few years later he went to New York, where he achieved fame as a portrait painter and a teacher in his Elizabethtown, New York, school. He frequently returned to Indianapolis, where he received many commissions including the governors' portraits. Toward the end of his career he moved to his wife's native town, Austin, Texas, where he died in 1959.

(1) Burnet, Art and Artists of Indiana, p. 417.

(2) Although no record of a portrait by Stephen Seymour Thomas has ever been found, the artist was in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1904 to paint the portrait of General Lew Wallace, now in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. At that time he may have made arrangements to paint a portrait of the governor, but this is, of course, speculation.

(3) Indianapolis News, May 18, 1920, p. 13, col. 1.

Source: Peat, Wilbur D. Portraits and Painters of the Governors of Indiana 1800-1978. Revised, edited and with new entries by Diane Gail Lazarus, Indianapolis Museum of Art. Biographies of the governors by Lana Ruegamer, Indiana Historical Society. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society and Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1978.