Adam was the son of animal painter Benno Adam. He initially intended to devote himself to science, but, carried away by the example of his grandfather and uncle Franz, he decided to be a painter. He studied painting under the guidance of his uncle, the painter Franz Adam, and later under Jean Francois Portaels in Brussels. He became one of the last great masters in depicting horses, horse portraits and hunting scenes.
Adam married Josephine Marie, née Wurmb. They had two sons, the painter Richard Benno Adam (1873–1937) and the priest Ernst Adam (1884-1955).
Adam's work consisted primarily of horse paintings, equestrian portraits, and hunting scenes. He was invited, along with his father to Pardubice, Bohemia, in 1867, to paint the hunting club members portrait, a group of 60 people.
- Literature by and about Emil Adam in the German National Library catalogue
- Media related to Emil Adam at Wikimedia Commons
- Entry for Emil Adam on the Union List of Artist Names
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