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David James - Plunging seas
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David James

Plunging seas

Oil on canvas: 25 x 50 (in) / 63.5 x 127 (cm)
Signed and dated lower right: D. James 96; signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the reverse

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Poplar, London 1860 - 1900 Stepney, London

Ref: CA 161


Plunging seas


Signed and dated lower right: D. James 96;

signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the reverse: Plunging Seas / D James 96

Oil on canvas: 25 x 50 in / 63.5 x 127 cm

Frame size: 38 x 63 ½ in / 96.5 x 161.3 cm






George Hughes, Newcastle

Private collection, Edinburgh



‘Though it is true to say that James’ pre-emptorarily, photo-realistic work, with its distinctively fluent, unlaboured style, was unique it would also seem that his painting is uniquely of its time. None today displays such dedication to the subject of the sea wave or has mastered its image with any greater ability.’[1] Andrew Mill


David James’s life is as mysterious as his paintings, which generally show waves thundering along the seashore, with perhaps a distant ship. His panoramic, often unpeopled paintings evoke the luminous greens of the sea and its latent power with an almost Symbolist intensity.


David James (born James Donahugh) was discovered and apprenticed as an artist to a picture dealer and frame maker, Selley Jacobi, at 6 East India Dock Road in Limehouse from 1874 until Jacobi’s death in 1884.[2] James painted seascapes from 1877 with an early focus on shipping in harbours, which developed into rugged coastal scenes and views with single vessels. He painted seascapes in the West Country and the Isles of Scilly and lived in Plymouth and Bowden, Devon in the 1880s. James exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1886 to 1897, giving addresses at 17 Albion Square, Dalston and 9 Blomfield Road, Maida Vale. He also exhibited at Manchester City Art Gallery and the Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham.


The work of David James is represented in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro; Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery; Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth; Norfolk Museum Service; Northampton Museums & Art Gallery; Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Birkenhead; Museums Sheffield; Beverley Art Gallery, East Riding; Bristol Museum & Art Gallery; Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead; The Whitaker, Rossendale; Low Parks Museum, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire and Manx Museum (Thie Tashtee Vannin), Douglas, Isle of Man.



David James, A Cornish breaker, 1896

Oil on canvas: 26 ½ x 51 3/5 in / 67.4 x 130.4 cm

Museum Sheffield




[2] See Andrew Mill, The Maritime Paintings of David James, unpublished manuscript 2011.


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