Signed J.H. Craig Art Gallery collection pre-1974

James Humbert Craig RHA, RUA (1877 -1944)
Oil paint on canvas, 29.3 x 42
Town Hall, Bangor; NGI; Ulster Museum; Crawford Art Gallery; Queen’s University, Belfast; St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth; DCGHL; NSPCI; UL; Highlanes
S.B. Kennedy ‘James Hubert Craig’, in Catherine Marshall and Peter Murray, The Art and Architecture of Ireland, Vol. V, 2014, pp 87, 88; Theo Snoddy, Dictionary of Irish Artists, 20th Century, Dublin, 2nd ed., 2002, pp 119, 120
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James Humbert Craig was born in Belfast, son of a Swiss mother and Irish father, and grew up in Bangor. Apart from a short period in New York and visits to Switzerland, France and Spain, he spent his life in Ireland, mainly in the area around Cushendun, County Antrim, abandoning his father’s tea business to be a painter and fisherman. Largely self-taught, Craig painted mainly in oils and in the area around Lough Neagh, Antrim and north Donegal, with occasional trips to Connemara and County Mayo. He became a member of the RHA in 1915 and continued to show there and at the Belfast Art Society for most of his life, also showing at the RA, London and the RSA on a number of occasions. Craig’s first solo show was held in Mills’ Hall, Dublin in 1923, followed by others in Dublin, Belfast and London. He was included in the important Exhibition of Irish Art in Brussels in 1930. There was little development in Craig’s work either in terms of technique or subject matter although S.B. Kennedy (2014) thought his work acquired depth and penetration in the final phase of his career. But the warm regard which his honest depictions of nature attracted can be deduced from the fact that the painting by him in the Waterford Municipal Art Collection was gifted by the great nature writer Robert Lloyd Praeger. A memorial exhibition of his work was held at the Museum and Art Gallery, Belfast in 1945. James Humbert Craig was a keen fisherman, so it is not surprising that there is a river in this landscape of the area around Glendun and Cushendun, near his County Antrim home. One of the things that enchanted collectors was his ability to paint farm animals, hens and chickens, but in this late work he gives all his attention to the place, the shadows from the trees, the calm reflections in the river. Although it is clearly summer because the trees are full of leaves, this is not about the excitement of dappled light effects or animal or human activity, but an opportunity for deep contemplation.