James Jeffrey Grant (1883-1960)

James Jeffrey Grant (1883-1960)

The son of a Scottish artist and craftsman, Grant looked to follow in his father’s footsteps and left his home in Aberdeen, Scotland, to study at the Gray School of Art.  By the age of seventeen he had exhibited his first painting, and soon thereafter immigrated to Toronto, Canada, to pursue a career in the arts.  Supporting himself as a commercial sign artist and engraver, Grant continued to paint independently and in 1907 left for Chicago.  Grant’s efforts were rewarded when he began to exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago and joined their painting jury a few years later.  Over the course of his career, Grant received six prizes at the Institute, as well as three medals from the Palette and Chisel Club, and a gold prize from the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors.  

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Although a prominent member of the Chicago art community, James Jeffrey Grant found his “favorite sketching ground” [1] not in Illinois, but in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  The small fishing village and artist colony first drew the artist in 1931, and he continued to summer there over the next twenty years.  Recording the daily activities of the fishermen and villagers with his oils and watercolors, Grant captured life as he experienced it.  These works were exhibited each summer at the North Shore Art Association between the years of 1934 and 1956, along with those created during his frequent trips abroad. 

While he continued to work in a realistic manner throughout his life, Grant was not opposed to looking at modern art for inspiration.  In 1957 he wrote, “I am not adverse to many of the new things in art, but look for the best that is in them and forward to the time when the two schools of painting will be more closely related. I feel that each individual should paint as the spirit moves him without any restrictions.” [2]  The carefully placed blocks of color in Grant’s own work illustrate his openness to experimentation.  This technique when combined with his strong sense of composition produced vivid oils and watercolors alike, capturing the very essence of life in Gloucester and the towns which he visited.  

References:   Who Was Who in American Art (1999), Gloucester Daily Times, August 24, 1935, Chicago Public Library, Art Files.

[1] Gloucester Daily Times, August 24, 1935.

[2] C. J. Bulliet, “Artists of Chicago Past and Present, No. 46, James Jeffrey Grant,” uncited newspaper clipping, Chicago Public Library, Art Files.

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