Fl. 1754 - 1771
William James was a painter of topographical views and a picture dealer, who worked between 1754 and 1771. He closely imitated the Venetian views of Canaletto and the London paintings of Samuel Scott. According to Edward Edwards’s Anecdotes of Painters (1808), James was a pupil or assistant of Canaletto when he was in England (1746-56). James lived for some years in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden and later at the Golden Head in May’s Buildings, St Martin’s Lane, an area of London popular with artists and craftsmen.
James exhibited at the Society of Artists of Great Britain from 1761 to 1768 and at the Royal Academy from 1769 to 1771. He became a member of the Society of Artists in 1766. Most of his exhibited pictures were views of London, apart from a series of Egyptian temples which he showed at the Society of Artists in 1768 and the Royal Academy between 1769 and 1770. James is not thought ever to have left England, so these must have been based on the sketches of an unknown traveller; however, they are very early examples of interest in Egyptian architecture, predating by thirty years the recording of Egypt by Napoleon’s scholars.
The work of William James is represented in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court, which has seven paintings by him, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.