Henry B. Adams

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Henry Brooks Adams was one of a handful of prominent New Englanders who visited Japan during the Meiji period, and played a key role in introducing Japanese art to New England.

He traveled to Japan along with John LaFarge in 1886.

Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson and wounded by his wife’s suicide, Adams also traveled to the South Pacific, arriving in Tahiti in 1891. He is said to have been more bored than enchanted, but one day met an old woman at the foot of a stone bridge, made of stones from the marae of Mahaiatea, which had been built by Queen Purea for her son in 1767-1768. The old woman, Ariii Taimai of the Teva clan, was a great-grand-niece of Amo & Purea, king & queen of the island in the 1760s.[1]

A bronze sculpture designed by Augustus St. Gaudens for the mausoleum of Adams' wife, inspired by a Kanô Motonobu painting of White-Robed Kannon in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, continues to stand today in Rock Creek Park, Washington DC.[2]


  1. Dening, Greg. “Possessing Tahiti.” Archaeology in Oceania 21, no. 1 (April 1, 1986): 103–18.
  2. A replica of the statue can also be found at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.[1]. The Kanô painting ([2]), previously in the collection of the Hachisuka clan, was purchased in Japan by Ernest Fenollosa, and then in 1886 was sold by Fenollosa to Charles Goddard Weld; presumably it was while Weld held it that Adams and St. Gaudens would have seen it.