J. Ottis Adams was best known as a nature-loving artist. A landscape painter who was a key member of the Hoosier Group of Indiana painters, Adams, along with William Forsyth and Theodore Steele, was committed to depicting his own native region. Typically their early work was peasant genre in dark tonalism. However, in the 1890s it became much lighter in the manner of the impressionists, and for many years these artists were the premier impressionist painters of the Midwest. Much of their subject matter was along the Muscatatuck and Whitewater Rivers and around the Indiana communities of Brookville and Vernon.
John Adams was born in Amitz, Indiana and in the mid 1880s went to Munich, Germany where he followed the regular routine of the Royal Academy. His companion there was Theodore Steele. Adams also studied with J. Frank Currier at Schleisheim, Germany and with John Parker in London. After studying in England and Germany, J. Ottis Adams returned to Indiana and opened an art school in Muncie in 1887.