Anderson RSA, James Bell (1886-1938)

Anderson RSA, James Bell (1886-1938)
Anderson RSA, James Bell (1886-1938)

James Bell Anderson was an accomplished Scottish painter of portraits, still lifes and landscapes. He trained in Arbroath, Edinburgh and Paris at the prestigious Académie Julian. His works were shown at the leading British venues including the Royal Academy and Royal Scottish Academy where he was a member. Numerous museums hold examples of his work, particularly his portraiture.


Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, London Salon, Royal Academy, Royal Scottish Academy (45), Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colours.

Public Collections

Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture, Paisley Art Institute Collection, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, The Dick Institute, The Signet Library, Wardlaw Museum, University of St Andrews, The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds.



Born in Edinburgh, Scotland to Charles Anderson, a plumber, and Catherine Anderson (nee Muir).


Lived in Edinburgh with his parents, siblings and mother-in-law.

Studied at Allan Fraser Art College in Arbroath under George Harcourt ARA.

Studied at the Edinburgh School of Art.

Studied at the Académie Julian in Paris under Jean-Paul Laurens.


Opened a studio in Glasgow exclusively for portraiture.


Debuted at the Royal Academy with a portrait of “The Rt. Hon. Alexander Ure KC MP”.

Lived in Glasgow.


Married Annie Fairbairn Dodds in Bo’ness.


Commissioned to paint a portrait of ex-Provost James Moffat. Reported in the Hamilton Advertiser.

“Subscribers to the testimonial to ex-Provost Moffat will be pleased to learn that a further step towards its consummation has been taken. The committee has now placed a commission to paint the portrait of the ex-Provost with Mr James Bell Anderson, 4 Blythswood Square, Glasgow. According to competent critics, Mr Anderson occupies a foremost place among Scottish portrait painters, and, though a comparatively young man, he has accomplished work of high artistic merit. Among other prominent personages he has depicted on canvas may be mentioned Lady Ure Primrose, Lord Strathclyde, Sir D. M. Stevenson, Bart., Mr Harry Hope, M.P., Mr James M. Motion, Clerk to Glasgow Parish Council, the late Provost Davie, Coatbridge, and Mr Wm. Hutchison, Unionist candidate for Bridgeton.

A writer in a recent issue of ‘Scottish Country Life’ in an appreciative article on Mr Anderson and his work, says:- ’The dominant purpose of the artist in his portraiture is to disinter the soul of the man or woman from the common human integuments. The construction of the portrait and devising of the accessories are important, but they are entirely subservient to the major function of securing a veracious and scrupulous record of human character.’ After describing Mr Anderson as at the summit of the hill, the writer continues:- ‘We all reach the base at last, but Mr Anderson should not until he has produced, by virtue of his sympathetic imagination and accomplished technique, a series of human documents which future generations will regard with spontaneous delight.’ Quite a number of names were considered, and altogether the committee are to be congratulated on their choice of an artist. It is expected that the presentation will take place in the early autumn.”


Lived in Glasgow.


Elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy.


Elected a member of the Royal Scottish Academy. Reported in the Linlithgowshire Gazette.

“Mr James B. Anderson Elected An Academician. The statutory general assembly of the Royal Scottish Academy has elected Mr James Bell Anderson, painter, Glasgow, to the rank of Academician. Mr Anderson previously held the rank of painter associate. He was born in Edinburgh on July 14, 1886, but in his early childhood his parents removed to Bo'ness, where he was educated in the local academy. Returning to Edinburgh, he studied at the School of Art, and subsequently spent four years at Hospitalfield, Arbroath, as a pupil of the Allan Fraser Art College. He then continued his studies at Julian's in Paris.

In 1912 he set up a studio in Glasgow, and devoted himself to portraiture. One of his first important works was that of the late Lord Strathclyde, executed shortly before the war. He also painted a portrait of Sir D. M. Stevenson, then Lord Provost of Glasgow, and this work is to be seen in the Kelvingrove Art Galleries. Another notable portrait was that of the late Mr James Aikman Smith of the Scottish Rugby Union. Mr Anderson painted a portrait of W. Campbell Johnstone, LL.D., Deputy-Keeper of the Signet, which was presented in March, 1932. He is a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy, and the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, and at the exhibitions in Liverpool and other English centres. Early in his career he made a study of still-life and landscapes. Mr Anderson was elected an associate of the Academy in 1932.”


Died in Glasgow. Reported in The Belfast Newsletter.

“Scottish Portrait Painter Taken Ill While Playing Billiards, Mr. James Bell Anderson, a well-known Scottish portrait painter, who once finished a study of Mr. Bonar Law which had been started by a fellow artist, died in Glasgow Art Club on Saturday night. Mr. Anderson, who was 52, was admitted to the Royal Scottish Academy last year. Three months ago his son, Charles, lost his life in a yachting accident.”


West Lothian Courier

“There will be wide regret at the news of the death of Mr James Bell Anderson, R.S.A., the well-known Scottish portrait painter, which occurred suddenly, in Glasgow on Saturday. Mr Anderson collapsed while sitting with friends in Glasgow Art Club. A doctor, who was in the Club at the time, immediately went to his aid, but Mr Anderson died within half an hour. He had attended a rugby football match in the afternoon, and had afterwards gone to the Club.

Mr Anderson who was born in Edinburgh in 1886, was one of the younger school of Scottish artists, but had already done important work in the department of portrait painting, in which avenue he was looked upon as having a distinguished future. He was elected a Royal Scottish Academician only a year and a half ago, and was one of the youngest men to attain this rank in recent years. Mr Anderson brought to his work as an artist not only a high technical capacity but a power of acute observation, and also a certain vitality which was a reflection of his own personality. He was best known in the West of Scotland, where some years ago he settled as a painter. Mr Anderson was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in March 1932.”

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