Known as “the Audubon of botanical paintings” Jacksonville native, Lee Adams began his long time love-affair with botanical painting early in life. As a child, often bedridden with Asthma, Adams taught himself to paint, painting and illustrating plants and animals to pass the time.
He grew up in the mid 1920’s next to Avondale’s illustrious Bootlegger house. The prairie school-type, two-story house with strong horizontal lines and hipped overhangs is a legend within itself. During the prohibition era, the original home owner built underground tunnels to the St. John’s River, where liquor was smuggled in by boat. Many neighborhood children enjoyed playing in the tunnels, but Lee Adams began using the underground tunnels as his canvas.
Adams’ work is as scientifically accurate as is decoratively appealing. His use of watercolor brings to life the natural beauty of exotic Florida plants and animals, usually in distinction to a white background. Many of his most renowned paintings are from his palm studies, where the detail and simple elegance of various palm species brings an earthy beauty to living room walls. He has more than 2,000 original works and held as many as 69 art shows throughout the United States and in Europe.
Itching to see one of these pieces? Lee Adams’ work is on display at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables/online in the virtual herbarium and in the special collections at the University of North Florida. Prints of his work are sold online for $100 or less, dated to the 1960’s. Looking for an original? Online auction sites have collections from Adams’ estate, but original pieces are still rare to find.