Norman Adams studied at Harrow School of Art from 1940-1946 and subsequently at the Royal College of Art from 1948-1951. He was Head of Painting at Manchester College of Art from 1962-1970, visiting tutor at Leeds University from 1973-1976 and Professor of Painting at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1981-1986. In 1986 he was elected Keeper of the Royal Academy, and appointed the Academy’s Professor of Painting Emeritus in 1995.
His first solo exhibition was held in 1952 at Gimpel Fils, London with subsequent regular shows held at Roland, Browse and Delbanco.
In 1955 Norman and his wife Anna bought a house in Horton in Ribblesdale where they spent much of the next fifty years together. In 1962 they paid their first regular visit to the west coast of Scotland, fascinated by the islands and the ever changing light.
In 1953 he designed the stage sets and costumes for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, and for the Sadler’s Wells in 1955. Commissions played a large part in Adams’s career, including murals for St Anselm’s Church, Kennington, London, ceramic panels illustrating the Stations of the Cross for the Roman Catholic Church at Coffee Hall in Milton Keynes and Stations of the Cross, for St Mary’s Church, Manchester; exhibited at the Royal Academy, prior to installation.
A retrospective of the artist’s work was held at the Royal Academy in 1988. He was elected Royal Academician in 1972 (ARA 1967) and Honorary Member of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1987.