The following is a summary of generalizations about signatures appearing on paintings by Adams, gleaned from examining over 1000 paintings, including those owned by Dorothy and Bruce Dines, and those appearing in the book The Art of Charles Partridge Adams.
I am sharing this information with others interested in Adams’ work in the hope that those reading it will be willing to tell me information that they know about, note additional exceptions to these generalizations, etc. in order to revise it and make it more complete and accurate.
Only a small fraction of Adams paintings are dated, perhaps 7-10%. Most are dated between 1889 to 1898, and 1898 is the most common date. Two oil paintings are dated 1907 and one watercolor is dated 1926. Of the dated oil paintings examined, about one-third bear the full date, and two-thirds bear a two-digit date preceded by an apostrophe. Of the dated watercolors examined, all but one bears the full date.
The vast majority of Adams’ work is signed at lower left “Charles·Partridge·Adams·” or “Chas·Partridge·Adams·” with centered dots between the names and following “Adams,” and with a tilted, horizontal flourish line under “Partridge” after the “P,” and extending under about half of “Adams.” This typical signature first appears on paintings dated 1893 and continued throughout his career until his death in 1942, a period of nearly fifty years.
On paintings dated between 1893 and 1898 the letters in the signature are predominantly vertical. Some time after 1898 the letters become slanted more to the right and the signature (and the flourish) as a whole typically rises somewhat to the right.
A couple of earlier paintings bear the signature “C. P. A.”, that probably date from the mid 1880’s One example appears below, scratched into the dry paint, rather than painted. Another one of these appears in Dines, p. 69
Before 1890, most paintings were simply signed “ADAMS,” as shown below. Some paintings in 1889 and 1890 were signed “C. Partridge Adams.”
From 1889 through 1893 the typical signature was “C. Partridge Adams” in rather large letters, and some did not have dots between the names. In part of 1889-1890 he used all capitals; after that he used initial capitals only.
A number of paintings were left unsigned at his death, and some of these were acquired from Adams’ descendants by Dines and others. A number of remaining Adams paintings were sold by the Maxwell Gallery between about 1955 and 1960. The Maxwell sticker says “San Francisco 2” and the phone number is listed as Garfield 1-5193. This group bears four-digit inventory numbers preceded by a “P.” Numbers P1613, -14, -15, -18, -20, -23, and -26 have been noted. Although these Adams paintings are signed “Charles·Partridge·Adams” it is unlikely that Adams actually signed them. The signature is considerably larger, and the “A” in Adams has a flat top, rather than the pointed “A” that Adams had used throughout his career. Most of these signatures are in green, yellow or light tan, all of which are atypical colors.
These signatures are horizontal, and some even slope down to the right, rather than sloping up to the right. Some of these signatures are also in the lower right position, which is also atypical.
The vast majority of Adams signatures are in dark or medium brown, in various shades of gray or black, or in various shades of dark red, sometimes bordering on bright orange. A very early oil is signed “C. P. A.” in white, and two full signatures that appear in white but are actually scratched into the dry paint, have been noted. Several watercolors are signed in robin’s egg blue and one oil is signed in dark blue.
A few genuine signatures vary in color from beginning to end; apparently Adams sometimes began his signature with one color; when it ran out, he changed to another color to finish it.
Paintings signed in other colors are suspect. A number of late Adams paintings bear bright lime green signatures, which is very atypical. Reportedly, a former Denver artist (now deceased) obtained a number of unsigned Adams paintings in the 1950’s or ’60’s and signed them in lime green, and often at lower right rather than the usual lower left.
Exceptions to the above generalizations:
- One undated watercolor is signed lower right. (Dines, p. 19)
- One 1892 watercolor is signed lower right. (Dines, p. 107)
- Several oils dated 1898 or earlier are signed lower right.
- One oil painting (Dines, p. 103) is double-signed and double-dated. Traces of a large signature typical of 1893 is dated 1893, and is oversigned by a signature more typical of 1894 or 1895, but dated 1890. This second signature was likely actually made during 1894 or 1895. The content of the painting is Louisiana, which Adams visited in 1890, according to Dines (p. 141). Two other oil paintings of the same period were double-signed in this way.
- One oil painting dated ’95 (or possibly ’96 or ’98) bears traces of an earlier larger signature typical of 1890-93.
- An oil painting (Dines, p. 117) is reportedly signed July 19, 1887, but I have examined this painting and the date given is actually the patent date of the wooden stretcher bars. The signature is typical of 1894 or later.
- An oil painting is titled lower right “A.sketch.1907” with full signature underneath.
- I have seen two canvases that bear a short dedication on the center back of the canvas, followed by a full signature in addition to the signature on the front.
OTHER PAINTINGS SIGNED “Charles Adams,” “Chas. P. Adams” or “Adams.”
There are quite a number of listed artists with the last name “Adams,” and two minor listed artists with the same first name: Charles Francis Adams, and Charles Laden Adams. I have not seen any art attributed to either of these two artists.
I have seen several watercolors of fruit signed “Charles Adams,” and another one of a harp and chair, signed “Adams” in the same flowing script. All of these bear labels from “Rudolph Lesch fine arts studio.” These are definitely NOT the work of Charles Partridge Adams. While some very early oil paintings bear the signature “ADAMS” (All capital letters) this was before he began painting watercolors. To my knowledge Charles Partridge Adams never used the signature “Charles Adams.”
There is one questionable oil painting of a seacoast scene signed “Chas. P. Adams” dated ’89. In 1889 Adams visited California, and at that time he signed paintings with either “ADAMS” or “C. Partridge Adams,” so it is possible that he experimented with a different signature. However, the shapes of the letters in the signature above are quite different from other signatures dated 1889, so I believe it to be a forgery.
Besides the late paintings that were “estate signed” (and there are quite a number of these) I have seen six signatures that were clearly fakes. In addition to these, another atypical painting was signed on the left of the top stretcher bar, and an atypical oil on board was signed on the back of the board.