James and Marguerite McBey


From his youth James McBey (1883-1959) had exhibited prodigious artistic talent. Through financial necessity he spent eleven years working in a bank in Aberdeen, painting and etching only in his spare time. A journey to the Netherlands in 1910, however, opened his eyes to the

possibilities of foreign travel and to a life as a professional artist, far beyond the confines of his Aberdeen home. He moved to London and journeys to Spain and Morocco followed.

In spite of Spain's magnificent artistic wealth Morocco was, if anything, even more thrilling for the young McBey and it was here that his delight in the physical world, warm weather and sunlight was awoken. He returned to London in February 1913 and there began a period of productivity and increasing acclaim. By the time that he reached the age of thirty James McBey had become an established and successful artist.

McBey and his American wife Marguerite Loeb (1905-1999) led an exotic and bohemian life. They lived at various times in some of the most beautiful locations in the world - in London, Tangier, Marrakech, New York and San Francisco.

It was during the 1930s that James McBey produced some of his finest oil paintings, both commissioned portraits and paintings of the people of Morocco. He had trained as a line artist and when he moved from etching to painting it was natural for him to begin by outlining shapes before filling them in with watercolour. During this decade however, his

technique became more decorative, his paintings imbued with a strength of form and pattern that had not been present in his work before.

Through the generosity of his wife Marguerite much of McBey's output came to Aberdeen Art Gallery. After his death she funded this James McBey Print Room and Library and also donated numerous works of art and memorabilia to Aberdeen Art Gallery, thus making it the largest repository of McBey's work in the world.

When she died in 1999 Marguerite gave more works by her husband, and also many watercolours that she had painted herself, to Aberdeen Art Gallery.

In 2001 The Marguerite McBey Trust, which works to find projects that promote contemporary art and the life and work of James McBey, was established to disburse funds bequeathed by Marguerite McBey. It is thanks to this Trust that Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums has just completed The James McBey Project. This has involved organising and cataloguing the James McBey archive in more detail, whilst also ensuring that a greater proportion of the collection has an image to accompany the website entries. As a result of the project, this virtual exhibition is now available to give visitors a more detailed insight into James McBey's life and work.