Every great artist strives to develop a style that is both distinctive and unique. In evolving that style over a lifetime, the artist draws on many sources. These can include individual experimentation, exposure to new techniques, work in other media and materials and, perhaps most important, the comments and advice of fellow artists.

Friendships between artists have resulted in extraordinary insights and artistic development. A notable example is the 9 weeks in 1888 in which Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin lived and worked together in Arles, France. Their intense collaboration proved a watershed in the development of both artists and has been the subject of books, articles, and, in 2002, an extensive exhibition (www.vangoghgauguin.com). Likewise, in the course of a friendship that extended over 45 years, the Impressionist Johann Berthelsen and the portraitist Wayman Adams were to exert major influences not just on each other's art but on their personal lives as well.

In 1913, Johann Berthelsen moved from Chicago to take up residence in Indianapolis, Indiana. As the youngest-ever head of the Voice Department at the Indianapolis Conservatory of Music, he was looking forward to a career that combined teaching and performing. An avid painter since his youth, he cultivated the company of other artists, as well as musicians, actors and writers. The famous Indianapolis "Salon" included such luminaries as Metropolitan Opera tenor Orville Harrold, poet James Whitcomb Riley, novelist Booth Tarkington, and others. Through these individuals, he made the acquaintance of a struggling young portraitist
named Wayman Adams.

Born in 1883 (the same year as Berthelsen), Adams was the son of a stock farmer who enjoyed drawing and painting as a hobby. Encouraged by his father, Wayman quickly exhibited exceptional talent; and, at the age of 12, he was awarded a prize for his drawing of a cow.

At the age of 21, he enrolled at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis in a program of formal study. Working at night to support his academic pursuits, he took classes with the distinguished instructor, William Forsyth. With Forsyth's encouragement, he pursued and received commissions even as a student. Two of his most notable portraits done at that time were of James Whitcomb Riley and Booth Tarkington.

In 1910, Adams seized the opportunity to join a group of students traveling to Italy to study with renowned artist William Merritt Chase. On this trip, he would meet a fellow student, Margaret Graham Burroughs. They would marry in 1918.

In 1912, Adams again traveled abroad to study with Robert Henri in Spain. By 1914, he had returned to Indianapolis.

According to Lee Berthelsen: "Despite his obvious talent and educational credentials, Adams had had few commission and was in serious financial trouble in 1914. According to my father, at the time he and Adams met, the artist was surviving on malted milk tablets.

"Their mutual friendship was instantaneous, and they would remain best friends until Adams's death. To assist his new friend, Johann offered him space in his own rooms and helped him in finding what work he could to support himself. His breakthrough would come later in the year when he received the Thomas R. Proctor Prize at the National Academy of Design in New York for a portrait of Alexander Ernestinoff. "

Johann Berthelsen as King Herod in the opera Herodiade.

Recognition quickly followed, and Adams established a studio in the Indiana Savings & Trust Company building. According to biographer A.M. Coulson, "Probably his best-known work during this period was the "Art Jury," a group full-length portrait of T. C. Steele, Otto Stark, J. Ottis Adams (no relation), and William Forsyth. The four, especially noted for the development of art in Indiana, were humorously called "The Big Four" in their time.

In addition to commenting on each other's work, Johann and Wayman remained personally close. Johann was the best man at Adams's marriage to Margaret Burroughs in 1918 and, on the same day, Adams served the same function at Johann's first marriage to his assistant. In 1920, the friends moved together to New York City, the capital of the national art scene. Johann quickly became one of the city's most respected Voice teachers, and Adams, who opened a studio in the Sherwood Studio on West 57th Street, quickly established a reputation for his portraits of dignitaries and society people, as well as any colorful characters who attracted his attention. In this period, he painted portraits of Presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover; actor Otis Skinner; writers Theodore Dreiser and Irvin S. Cobb; and conductor Walter Damrosch. His portrait of the Russian cellist Gregor Piatiagorski was awarded First Prize by the Carnegie Institute.

Like Johann Berthelsen, he also became proficient in other media than oil, including watercolor, lithography, etching and sculpture.

Lee Berthelsen comments, "My father and Wayman Adams not only enjoyed each other's company but loved to work together. Every summer, the two of them would go for several weeks to the studio that Adams maintained in Elizabethtown, New York, and paint together. Adams also held portraiture classes that were open to the public and attracted students from throughout the country. An exceptionally generous man, he painted many portraits of my father and of us as children that we still have and value, both artistically and personally. One that is especially notable was painted early on. It's a life-size portrait of my father preparing to go on stage for a concert."

Adams frequently painted theBerthelsen children. This is Leeat about 6 years.

When the Depression forced Johann Berthelsen to close his Voice studio and to concentrate on painting, Adams offered much helpful advice. Lee recalls, "Despite his admiration for my father's pastels and oils depicting landscapes and cityscapes, Adams urged him to go into portraiture. He knew that he had the ability and that, once he had established a reputation, the money was better. My father, however, believed that no living painter, himself included, could artistically approach Adams's skill in portraiture. Fortunately for all of us who so love his snow scenes and landscapes, he pursued the style that best suited his talents."

Thanks to his wife and her family, Adams had long maintained a close relationship to Texas. He painted many subjects in the Texas/Mexico area, including several of the state's governors. He and his wife maintained a home, Encina Linda, in Austin that attracted a large gathering of artists and intellectuals. In 1949, they moved from New York to take up permanent residence. Over the next 10 years, Johann Berthelsen and Wayman Adams occasionally visited and maintained contact by telephone and letter. Though far apart, their friendship never suffered any distance or estrangement.

In 1959, Wayman Adams died of a heart attack. His wife passed on six years later, and their only son, Wayman, Jr., died in 1981. Tragically, Encina Linda was destroyed in a fire in 1976, and many valuable paintings, including Adams's work and gifts from his friend, Johann Berthelsen, were lost in the blaze.

Today, examples of Wayman Adams's work can be found in many institutions, museums and private collections throughout the country. The farm boy who first gained notoriety with a portrait of a cow and went on to paint presidents and dignitaries remains highly regarded for the warmth and personality that he captured so well on canvas. Perhaps even more important, his memory continues to be cherished in the minds and hearts of the children of his best friend.

Note: In 1993, a major auction of Wayman Adams's work was conducted by the noted firm of Tom Keilman and Sons Auctioneers of Austin ,Texas. The biography of Adams preparedfor the catalog was written by A.M. Cousin. The Johann Berthelsen Conservancy, LLC, gratefully acknowledges permission to quote from the biography and to utilize it as a source of material for this article.