James Kay (1858-1942)

James Kay

James Kay

James Kay was a Scottish artist famous for his paintings of the landscapes and shipping around the River Clyde. Born on the Isle of Arran, Kay spent much of his working life with a studio in Glasgow and living at Portincapleon Loch Long in Argyll and Bute. He was elected to the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolor (RSW) in 1906 and to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1938. He had one daughter, artist Violet McNeish Kay.




Kay was born on 22 October 1858 at Lamlash on the Isle of Arran, son of Thomas Kay, a chief petty officer in the British Royal Navy, and Violet McNeish. He trained at the Glasgow School of Art. Primarily a landscape artist, Kay is best known for his portrayals of “the glory of the busy shipping reaches of the Clyde”. He showed great originality, influenced by the emergence of impressionism of the 1880s.

Active from the late 1880s, Kay achieved regular recognition at exhibitions in Europe. He exhibited at the Salon in Paris in 1894, and at 1895’s La Libre Esthétique in Brussels was awarded an honourable mention. In 1903 his painting “Toil and Grime” was awarded the silver medal at the Société des Amis des Arts in Rouen, while another work, “River of the North”, won the gold medal at the Paris Salon. In 1907 his painting “Launch of the Lusitania” was purchased by the Corporation of Glasgow for the city’s art collection.

In 1911, Kay met and married Ada Laval, who was from Mauritius. They had one child, Violet McNeish Kay, in 1914; she went on to become an artist, and died in 1971. Kay was elected to the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW) in 1906 and to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1938. He was also a member of Glasgow Art Club with which he exhibited.

The Glasgow Herald, writing, in October, 1942, of the 81st exhibition of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, remarked the paintings of James Kay, who had just died.

“James Kay was a colorist whose pictures have interested and enlivened many observers, and his color harmonies became more mellow as he advanced in years, as may be seen in such works as “Jetty, Havre” – full of life and breeziness”.




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