James Archer (artist)

James Archer RSA (10 June 1823 – 3 September 1904), was a Scottish painter of portraits, genre works, landscapes and historical scenes.[1][2][3]

James Archer
James Archer.jpg
James Archer, 1822 - 1904. Artist (Self-portrait) About 1890 - 1900
Born10 June 1823 Edit this on Wikidata
Edinburgh Edit this on Wikidata
Died3 September 1904 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 81)
Haslemere Edit this on Wikidata

Life and workEdit

Archer was born in Edinburgh, one of the four children of Andrew Archer, a dentist, and Ann Cunningham. His sister was Georgina Archer[4] who founded an early college for women in Germany. He was educated at the Royal High School and studied at the Trustee's Academy in Edinburgh under Sir William Allan and Thomas Duncan (painter). In 1840 he was accepted as a student at the Royal Scottish Academy and first exhibited there in 1842, with the biblical painting, "The Child St John in the Wilderness". He became an associate of the academy in 1850, and in 1858 an Academician (RSA). In 1844 he is listed as living at 21 York Place in Edinburgh's New Town.[5]

The Death of King Arthur.

Archer worked in oils, pencil and chalk, and at the beginning of his career specialised in portraiture, his best-known work includes children and people in costume as its subjects - in fact, he was the first Victorian painter to do children's portraits in period costume. In 1849 he exhibited his first historical picture 'The Last Supper' at the Royal Scottish Academy. His work after that mostly consisted of scenes taken from literature or legends that were popular at the time, such as Shakespeare and King Arthur.[6] In about 1859 he began to paint a series of Arthurian subjects, including La Mort d'Arthur and Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. In 1864, he moved to London.

In the 1880s, Archer travelled to the United States, where he painted Andrew Carnegie's portrait, and to India, where he painted landscapes and people in costume.

Archer died in 1904 in Haslemere in Surrey, survived by his son and three daughters from his marriage to Jane Clerk.


  1. ^ Soden, Joanna. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. ^ Works and biography of James Archer Archived 2008-03-30 at the Wayback Machine (ArtMagick)
  3. ^ James Archer - biography and works
  4. ^ Joanna Soden, ‘Archer, James (1822–1904)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 29 Dec 2016
  5. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1844-5
  6. ^ Biography Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine (cinoa.org)

External linksEdit

  • 34 paintings by or after James Archer at the Art UK site
  • James Archer online (ArtCyclopedia)
  • Paintings by Archer (Art Renewal Center)
  • Summertime Gloucestershire (childhoodinart.org)
  •   Cooper, Thompson (1884). "Archer, James" . Men of the Time  (eleventh ed.). London: George Routledge & Sons. p. 48.