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 James McGinley  (1937 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/Maryland/New Jersey      Known for: landscape, wildlife, marine, urban view

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Landscape (Lower Manhattan Skyline)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
James McGinley is a realist painter of landscape, wildlife, marines, urban scenes, portraits, and western subjects. Born in 1937 in Jersey City NJ, McGinley is one of New Jersey's better known artists along with his teacher John R. Grabach (1882-1984), and another of Grabach's students, the watercolorist Henry Gasser ( -1981).

These artists depicted New Jersey landscapes and citylife in a painterly mode. McGinley moved to Sullivan County, New York in 1992 and has become well-known there as a leader of the School of Delaware River Painters.

He is listed in "Davenport's Art Reference of 2001", as well as "The Artists Bluebook" by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier.

James was admired for his work since age three, when his chalk sidewalk drawings were roped off for protection while the neighborhood marveled at their little prodigy. He was born into an Irish family who had arrived in America before the Revolutionary War, many of whom fought in that war. James' father was an artist, his grandfather was an artist, and as far back as memory goes, there were artists in the McGinley family. His mother carefully nourished his creative life, taking him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City every other week, and to other museums as the Newark Museum of Art with its fine collection of paintings.

A young romantic, James first decided to become an artist so that he could paint cowboys and western life, a subject so highly discouraged in art school that it took decades for him to return to it. He entered the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts to study advertising art. Although a superb draftsman, his illustrations lacked the slick quality required for commercial art, and when his teacher saw a portrait James had dashed off (he had borrowed his grandfather's oil paints), he was immediately directed to the fine arts department. He studied fundamentals with John Grabak who declared in his first class with James, "You could be one of the top painters in the country."

The conflict between modernism and traditionalism was very strong during these years, the late 1950s, with most young students opting for modernism. James had to hold strongly to what he believed in, which was that he wanted to paint great paintings like the masters. He was especially impressed by the works of John Singer Sargeant and Andrew Zorn. After a short and disappointing stint at the Art Students League ("The model was 40 feet away, visible through a narrow slit between easels."), James received a scholarship to study in Madrid at the Real Academia de Belles Artes de San Fernando, the prestigious art academy started by the King of Spain, with Goya as the first director. He packed up his wife and two children, and went to Spain in 1962.

The school had a staggering collection of paintings by Goya, Velasquez, Ribera, Rubens, and also of the artist who would be the biggest influence on James' life, the great Sorolla who is little known in America but was Spain's biggest artist at the turn of the twentieth century. Impressed by the quality and depth of Sorolla's oeuvre, by his ability to paint any subject, and any size whether 3x2 inches or 20x30 feet, McGinley decided to emulate him and his "clean, painterly brushstroke dashed off as easy as breathing." Although not speaking Spanish, James was the top of the class of 500, was chosen to be on television to represent the Academy, and was befriended by cultural leaders and diplomats. He left after one year because his third child, born in Spain, needed medical attention in America.

For the next decades, McGinley exhibited and was represented at a number of galleries, including Grand Central in New York City and Newman Galleries of Philadelphia. He was a master art restorer, a job he appreciated because could intimately study the techniques of painters such as Whistler, Degas, Sisley. He also taught at his alma mater in Newark, where he was an effective and dynamic teacher of figure drawing and landscape painting. He inspired his students, and in turn drew inspiration from them and their many styles. To this day, McGinley considers himself to be constantly learning his craft, and as if he were a child, he eagerly seeks opportunities for new insights into a craft he so thoroughly knows.

McGinley moved to the Delaware River area twelve years ago, drawing inspiration not only from the humbling beauty of the region, but also from the seven horses which he takes care of every day. After a number of extensive journeys through the western United States, drawing, painting and photographing, he finally was able to develop the western paintings which he had wanted to paint since childhood.

McGinley's interest is to create works of art which bring wonder and enchantment to viewers as they travel through the artist's interpretation of scenes from life. He considers each painting as a small vacation, taken at each glance! The paintings have a richness of color and light defined in gliding brushstrokes which dance over the surface and into pictorial space, as McGinley creates out of the familiar something never seen before.

The artist has exhibited at the Newark Museum; Montclair Museum; New Jersey State Museum; National Academy of Design in New York; Salmagundi Club, New York; Knickerbocker Artists, New York; Penn State University, and many other venues. He is the recipient of innumerable prizes for his painting, including the Lee M. Loeb Memorial Award at the Salmagundi Club, New York; the Jean Rose Memorial Award from Ridgewood Art Association, New Jersey; "Best in Show" at the American Artists Professional League, New York; "Best in Show" at the Carrier Foundation National Art Show; "Best in Show" at the St. Marks Art Show of Mendham, New Jersey; The John R. Grabach Memorial Prize at the American Artists Professional League, New York, and many others. He is in many public and corporate collections including those of AT&T, Bell Telephone Labs, Warner Lambert, Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company, the Essex Fells Corporation, and others.

Delaware River Painters River Gallery, Narrowsburg NY
Grand Central Galleries, New York NY
Newark Museum, New Jersey Tercentennial Exhibition
Montclair Museum, Montclair NJ
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton NJ
National Academy of Design, New York NY
Salmagundi Club, New York NY
Hudson Valley Art Association, White Plains NY
New Jersey Watercolor Society
Garden State Watercolor Society
Ridgewood Art Association NJ
Morristown National Historic Museum, NJ
American Artists Professional League, NJ Chapter
Carrier Foundation, Belle Meade NJ
Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn NJ
Knickerbocker Artists, New York NY
American Artists Professional League Grand National Exhibition, New York NY
Somerset Art Association NJ

John R. Grabach Memorial Prize,
American Artists Professional League, New York NY
Lee M. Loer Memorial Award, Salmagundi Club, New York NY
Jean Rose Memorial Award, Ridgewood Art Association NJ
"Best in Show" American Artists Professional League New York NY
"Best in Show" Carrier Foundation National Art Show, Belle Meade NJ
"Best in Show" St. Marks Art Show, Mendham, NJ

AT&T, Bedminster NJ
Bell Telephone Labs, Murray Hill NJ
Carrier Foundation, Belle Meade NJ
Warner Lambert Pharmaceutical Corporation, NJ
Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company
Essex Fells Corporation NJ
C.R.Bard, Incorporated, Murray Hill NJ

Submitted by Barbara Braathen, November 2003.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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