Scottish colonial male draughtsman whose sketches and paintings of Melbourne were reproduced as lithographs even after his sudden death at sea en route to Calcutta. His Australian landscapes were sought after because they captured the roughness of the country.
painter, sketcher and draughtsman, son of Frederick Adamson of the Clyde Company, Scotland, is said to have landed at Hobart Town in August 1835 off the wreck of the Leith ship Wallace but did not stay long. In October he arrived at Sydney as a settler aboard the schooner Maria . He subsequently went to Melbourne, where all his known sketches were drawn. Some were published as lithographs and engravings in 1839-40. His map of Melbourne surrounded by views of colonial life and scenery was described in the Port Phillip Gazette on 29 April 1840:
We have just seen a lithographic print executed at Glasgow, from a sketch sent home by Mr John Adamson, of Melbourne, which is better calculated to give a true and intimate idea of bush life in the wilds of Australia Felix, than half a volume of minute description. This sketch displays a great deal of talent in its way, and there is a humour visible in the bush scene, entitled “roughing it out”, not unworthy of Cruikshanks himself. These sketches, we learn, are sought after with much avidity.
Adamson made the original drawing for the well-known Melbourne from the South Side of the Yarra Yarra, 1839, which was engraved in Sydney by J. Carmichael for R. Clint . The Port Phillip Gazette of 5 September 1840 called the print 'a very correct representation of ancient Melbourne; as it appeared twelve months since’. (Reprinted by the Crown Lands Department, Melbourne in 1881, it has since been widely reproduced.) His similar Melbourne (Port Phillip) 1839 was published as a lithograph by the Sydney bookseller J.H. Clark with a key to the buildings.
On 6 October 1841, the Port Phillip Gazette noted:
A letter has been received by Mr. O. Gourlay of this town, announcing the death, on his passage home, of Mr. J. Adamson, a gentleman who was among the first to settle in this country, and whose eccentricities, while they rendered him remarkable, were accompanied by a power of mind which gained him at all times the esteem of his acquaintance. Mr. Adamson died suddenly on board the Helen Thompson , 5th May, 1841, in which vessel he was bound for Calcutta from Batavia, where he had last touched. Mr. Adamson has left behind him a considerable amount of property, for which his cousin, Mr. Gourlay, and Mr. Highett, Manager of the Union Bank, are Executors.