“Considered one of the greatest French sculptors and engravers during his lifetime, close to Picasso and to the Surrealists, some of his works enter with force into the urban landscape”
Marcel Allocco, painter
In 1918, after attending a watchmaking school, he began to work in the studio of his father, a jeweler and goldsmith in the Marais district of Paris, where he learned to carve and later to engrave. Then in 1925 he took evening classes at a drawing school in Montparnasse and after a stint at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1926 became a drawing professor of the Ville de Paris. Beginning in 1928 he started specializing in satirical sketches and political caricatures. In 1934 Adam got involved with engraving and above all with etching, while he frequents some surrealists, among whom André Breton, Louis Aragon and Paul Éluard, and for the first time exhibits his works at the Galerie Billiet Worms in Paris. Two years later he began a cycle of strongly impressionistic engravings, “Désastres de la guerre”, in response to the Spanish Civil War and joined the Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists (AEAR). He received the “Prix Blumenthal” for his work as engraver in 1937. Mobilized in 1939 and taken prisoner, he was assigned as auxiliary nurse at the hospital Saint-Jacques de Besançon, where he made many drawings of surgeons, soldiers and the wounded. He was eventually released at the end of 1940.
He dedicated himself to sculpture since 1942, and in October 1943 he, along with Gaston Diehl, Léon Gischia, Jean Le Moal, Manessier, Pignon, Gustave Singier, became one of the fifteen founders of the “Salon du Mai”. That same year he created the sets and costumes, masks and two four meter-tall statues for Jean-Paul Sartre's “Les Mouches”. He also carved “Le Gisant”, a tribute to the French Resistance and martyrs, which would be exhibited in the Salon de la Libération in Paris in 1944. On that occasion he met Pablo Picasso who lent him his studio in the Rue Des Grands-Augustins where he worked until 1950. Between 1948 and 1949, at his Boisgeloup estate, near Gisors, breaking with all styles, he realized among other works, "Le Grand Nu" conserved by the Musée National d'Art Moderne. Starting in 1947, Adam made paperboards for the tapestry, in black & white like his engravings, at the studios in Aubusson, the factory in Beauvais and the national factory in Gobelins. For this occasion, Adam invented a new technique that allowed obtaining nine shades of grey just by dosing juxtaposed black and white threads without recurring to other paints. In 1949 Adam presented a comprehensive exhibition of his works, frequently based on women's sleek forms and on sculptures characterized by slight carvings and reliefs, at the gallery Aimé Maeght and in 1952 his copper engravings based on the theme of the Months of the year, went on display in the bookstore-gallery La Hune in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
From 1950 to 1955, he was a professor of design at Antony, at a college which today bears his name. In 1955 the first retrospective of his work was organized at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. In 1956 and 1957, Adam developed one of his most famous suites of engravings, “Dalles, Sable et Eau” showing scenes of the sea, sand and granite of Penmarch, and a series of sculptures named “Mutations marines”. He made new tapestries for the French Embassy in Washington in 1957, “Méridien” for the Palace of UNESCO in 1958, and “Galaxie” for Air France in New York in 1961. After a project for the “Monument du Prisonnier Politique Inconnu” in 1951, his “Le Signal” was erected in front of the Musée du Havre in 1961, the first of his monumental sculptures. The number of Adam's sculptures multiplied: “Le Cygne blanc” for the Lycée Charlemagne à Vicennes 1962, Obélisque oblique 1962 presented at the French Pavilion at the Exposition de Montreal, a set of sculptures and tapestries for l'église de Moutier in Switzerland 1963-1967; a 22 meter-long wall, and “La Feuille” for the lycée de Chantilly 1965; “Trois pointes effilées” for the college-city of La Flèche 1965, a monument for Vichy 1960–1966, “La Grande étrave” for the House of Culture of Thonon 1966, a fountain for the city of Bihorel-les-Rouen 1966, “Le Minotaure” for the college-city of Segré 1967, “L'Oiseau de granit” and “La Grande Table de conférence” for the lycée technique de Saint-Brieuc 1967. Starting in 1964, he also created about a dozen medals for the French medal club. In 1959 he was appointed professor of engraving and later head professor of the workshop of monumental sculpture at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He installed his own workshop and presses in La Ville du Bois, near Montlhéry while many of his works were presented in museums in France and Europe, among which the Biennale di Venezia 1950; the “Biennale of Open Air Sculpture” in Middelheimpark, Antwerp; as engraver at the Los Angeles County Museum 1955 and Dokumenta in Kassel 1959. In 1961 Adam developed a series of sculptures entitled “Cryptogrammes”: the organic forms engraved that appear light on darker surfaces, evoke a secret writing comprised of signs deriving from triangles, rhombuses, lozenges, circles of arcs or bundles of lines. A retrospective of Adam's work was presented in 1966 at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. Three of his sculptures and the tapestry Penmarc'h were presented the following year in Montreal. In the middle of a creative whirlwind, Adam died from a heart attack on August 27, 1967, at La Clarté near Perros-Guirec, and lies in the cemetery of Mont-Saint-Michel, the theme of his last tapestry (4×8 metres). Among the different projects brought to term after his death, the "Grande étrave" in bronze was placed at the entrance to the Law Faculty of the University of Paris.
Among the various acknowledgments received: the "Grand Prize for International Engraving”, Ljubljana 1957; being nominated "Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur" 1958; member of the Accademia delle Arti e del disegno di Firenze 1963, of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres 1965 and of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium 1967; being nominated "Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite" 1964. His monumental works are located in public areas of several cities, above all in France. In the 1960s, Adam stayed in Versilia and participated, among others, in the project elaborated by Erminio Cidonio to turn Querceta into an international centre of modern sculpture. He created works at Henraux S.p.A., at Studio Sem Scultori Associati, Fonderia Tesconi, Laboratorio Giulio Cardini, but above all he is remembered for the experiments performed in the course of the creation of the "Fontana di Chantilly", an enormous work created in 1965 at Henraux using only large machines for the industrial processing of marble.
In the Apuan-Versilia area, his works have been featured at the IV and VII "Biennale internazionale di scultura Città di Carrara" 1965, 1973; in the international sculpture exhibition at the Galleria d'Arte "La Polena" in Forte dei Marmi 1976; in "Scultori e artigiani in un centro storico" in Pietrasanta 1977; in "Il passato e la presenza" at the Centro Culturale "Luigi Russo" in Pietrasanta 1982 e 1983; in "Massa. Scultura internazionale" at the Castello Malaspina in Massa 1996; in "Scultura lingua viva" at the Palazzo Ducale in Massa 1998 and in the "X Biennale internazionale di scultura Città di Carrara. Il primato della scultura" 2000.
The photographs published in the TimeLine were taken from the Museo dei Bozzetti website www.museodeibozzetti.it