Patrick William Adam was born in Edinburgh, the son of a well know lawyer. He studied at the Beaux Arts Academy in Ecosse, where he studied under Paul Chalmers and William MacTaggart. He began his career as a portraitist before turning his attentions to painting landscapes of Edinburgh, Venice, Florence and Paris. He usually worked with oil or pastel, and occasionally with watercolour.
He exhibited at the Royal Academy, Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Hibernian Academy, Glasgow Institute, Walker Art Gallery and at the Goupil Gallery. Up until 1908 he exhibited primarily landscapes, but after 1908 he settled in North Berwick and began to both paint and show his noteworthy interiors for which he was most celebrated. His talent was recognised early on and he was awarded the Maclaine Watters medal in 1878.
In 1883 he was elected an associate of the RSA, and granted full membership in 1897.