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Adam, Henri-Georgeslocked

(b Paris, Jan 14, 1904; d La Clarté, Brittany, Aug 27, 1967).

French sculptor, printmaker and tapestry designer. His father was a jeweller, and after his return from World War I in 1918 Adam worked in his studio and learnt how to engrave. At the same time he studied drawing at the Ecole Germain-Pilon and read Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal, which was to have a great influence on him. In 1925 he attended evening classes at a school of drawing in Montparnasse. From 1928 to 1934 he started to produce prints and became associated with André Breton, Louis Aragon and Paul Eluard, although he was never greatly influenced by them. His early prints, reminiscent of the work of George Grosz, were mostly designed as social satire, mocking the myths surrounding patriotism, the family and religion, as in When Papa is Patriotic (1935). In 1933 he designed the costumes and scenery for Hans Schlumberg’s Miracle à Verdun performed at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris. His first exhibition of prints was held in 1934 at the Galerie Billiet-Vorms in Paris.

The Spanish Civil War (1936–9) prompted Adam to create a cycle of engravings entitled Disasters of War, which included such works as the Horse and the Plough (1941; Y. Adam priv. col., see 1968 exh. cat., p. 106). In 1937 he participated in the exhibition Artistes de ce temps at the Petit Palais in Paris, and the following year he was awarded the Blumenthal prize for engraving. After being mobilized in 1939 and taken prisoner in 1940, he then worked as a hospital attendant in Besançon. His experiences led to a series of 120 drawings evoking the horrors of war. In 1943 he produced costume and stage designs for Jean-Paul Sartre’s Les Mouches, performed at the Théâtre de la Cité in Paris. He began producing sculpture in 1942 and the following year executed his first important work The Effigy (Y. Adam priv. col., see 1966 exh. cat., p. 7), based on medieval tomb figures. It was exhibited at the Salon de la Libération, Paris, in 1944 through the intervention of Picasso and caused a considerable stir at the exhibition, André Lhote being its strongest defender. Adam’s friendship with Picasso led to the latter offering him his studio in the Rue des Grands-Augustins, where Adam worked for the next seven years. In 1945 he was one of the co-founders of the Salon de Mai in Paris, at which he exhibited his Burnt Man (1945; Y. Adam priv. col.). In 1947 he engraved a series of plates to illustrate Gérard de Nerval’s Les Chimères, although they were never published (see Gheerbrant, pls 52–61, 70–83). The same year he produced the first of many tapestry cartoons, for Danae, which was woven at Aubusson. His tapestry Meridian was hung in the UNESCO Palace in Paris in 1958.

In 1956 Adam began his series of sculptures Vegetable and Marine Mutations, which were designed to expand the subject-matter of sculpture beyond the tradition of the human form, as in Large Shell (1956; Y. Adam priv. col., see George, pl. 31). The same year he began the series of engravings Flagstones, Sand and Water, which included such works as Flagstone, Sand and Water, No. 1 (1956; Y. Adam priv. col., see Gheerbrant, pl. 109). He produced a number of large public sculptures, the first of which was The Signal (1959–61; Le Havre, Mus. B.-A.), a vast geometric work whose aspect radically alters from different viewpoints. One of his most impressive public works is The Wall (1965–6; Chantilly, Lycée), a series of unevenly sized and shaped stones with a network of deep incisions. From 1963 to 1967 he provided sculptural decoration for the church at Moutier in Switzerland.


  • B. Gheerbrant: Henri-George Adam: Oeuvre gravé, 1939–1957 (Paris, 1957)
  • Adam (exh. cat. by B. Dorival and others, Paris, Mus. N. A. Mod., 1966)
  • W. George and I. Jianou: Adam (Paris, 1968)
  • A la rencontre d’Adam (exh. cat. by Y. Goldenberg, Paris, Hôtel de la Monnaie, 1968)