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 James H. Smillie  (1807 - 1885)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: landscape, banknote engraver

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Ad Code: 3
James H Smillie
from Auction House Records.
Arkansas or Platte River
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted August 2005, is from Victoria Clark, professional art historian.

James Smillie was born on 23 November 1807 in Edinburgh,Scotland. In 1819, he apprenticed under John Johnston, silver engraver, and Edward Mitchell, pictorial engraver. He was the son of David Smillie Sr (1781-1827) and Elizabeth Cumming (1782-1852).

The family immigrated to Quebec, Canada, establishing a silver-plating and engraving business. James Smillie began original etchings ofpictorial subjects for "Picture of Quebec", written by Rev George Bourne, and from that time Smillie was dedicated to etching.

He completed studies in Edinburgh under Andrew Wilson, and by 1828 had become an accomplished reproductive engraver. He moved his family to New York to undertake a series called "Views of New York" published by George Melksham Bourne.

He married Catherine Van Valkenburgh on 29 March 1832. Of their eight children, two became artists of established reputations: James D Smillie, 1835, and George Henry Smillie, 1840.

In 1837, he started work on banknotes, specializing in vignettes, and he worked with his brother, William Cummings Smillie. In 1850 he started making prints for the American Art Union, a forum organized in 1839 for emerging artists. He contracted to engrave an entire series for Thomas Cole's painting "Voyage of Life."

In 1852, he was elected as a full member of the National Academy of Design, and in 1864, he contracted to engrave a print after Albert Bierstadt's "The Rocky Mountains." He also continued working for the American Bank Note Company.

James Smillie died on 4 December 1885 in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Sources include:

1870 and 1880 New York, 1880 federal census: soundex and population schedules, United States Bureau of the Census. 9th and 10th census, Washington, District of Columbia: The National Archives.

"An Engraver's Pilgrimage, James Smillie in Quebec, 1821-1830", Mary Macaulay Allodi, Rosemarie L Tovell, Royal Ontario Museum, University of Toronto Press, 1989.

"Madeline Bird Otto, A Memorial" with historical data of the Bird, Bourne, Sparkes, and Otto Families, ArnoldC Otto, AB, LLB, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1964.

Griebel & Clark, "A Family History" by Victoria L John Clark, Anaheim, California 2005.

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