James McBey Biography

James McBey

Scottish

1883-1959

Biography

James McBey was born on December 23, 1883 in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, educated at his village school, and at the age of 15 years he became a clerk in a local bank. He taught himself how to create etchings on zinc plates from a book on etching "Traité de la Gravure a l'Eau-Forte."

In 1911, he exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in London and his prints were published in both London and Glasgow. In 1916 McBey was appointed official war artist to the Palestine Expeditionary Force, and these drawings are now in the Imperial War Museum. He made several visits thereafter to the Middle East and North Africa. In the 1920s his etchings began to sell at an accelerated price, and he was featured by Malcolm Salaman in the second volume of the series "Modern Masters of Etching" and Salaman also compiled a catalogue of his work, published in 1929. In addition, he had commissions to paint a number of formal portraits, including one of Sir Harry Lauder in 1921.

The work of James McBey is held by the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; the National Gallery of Art, Washington; the Huntington Library, California; and by the Aberdeen Art Gallery where the McBey Art Reference Library was established in his name in 1961. There is an lmost complete collection of McBey's work at the Boston Public Library.

James McBey died on December 1, 1959 in Tangier, Morocco.