James Wilson Morrice

Born in Montreal, Morrice spent most of his artistic life in Paris, with frequent visits back to his homeland. An avid traveler, he painted atmospheric views of Québec, France, Venice, Morroco and the West James Wilson Morrice was born in Montreal, Quebec. He was the third of seven sons of a wealthy businessman, David Morrice. Being brought up in wealthy surroundings, young James was exposed to many fine works of art in the Morrice household. In 1882, he went to the University of Toronto and earned his B.A. in 1886. At this time, he began painting watercolours.

After graduation, Morrice entered Osgoode Hall, Toronto where he studied law and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1889. The older Morrice wanted his son to have the security of a profession, but his son's interests were elsewhere. Later in his college years, the thought of being a lawyer started to bore him. After submitting a couple of his works to the Ontario Society of Artists, one of his paintings was finally chosen for the annual exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy. With further support from the likes of Sir William Van Horne and William Scott, Morrice managed to convince his father to pay for his art education in Europe. He enrolled in the Julian Academy where he studied for a short period of time before leaving and then becoming attracted to the landscapes of Henri Harpignies. Then in his seventies, Harpignies was convinced by Morrice to criticize his work for a fee, the only tuition of importance to him at that time in Paris. By 1893, he had become greatly influenced by the work of Whistler who thought Morrice's work to be in the same category as Monet, Degas and other impressionists.

In 1899, Morrice moved to the Left Bank in Paris. At this point, he began to move into prominence with his painting. In 1901, he exhibited at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in London, England and continued to show with this group until 1914.

Each year, he returned to Canada for a few months to see his family and close friends in Montreal. In Quebec, he sketched with Maurice Cullen and William Brymner. Morrice also kept in touch with Newton MacTavish, an art critic and trustee of the National Gallery of Canada. He became a charter member of the Canadian Art Club, Toronto, in 1907 and also spent some time in New York City in the same year. He became influenced by the work of Gauguin and Matisse. He turned his attentions to the South of Europe, North Africa and the West Indies. Morrice returned to North Africa many times and was believed to have a studio in Marrakesh for a season.

When his father died in 1914, Morrice received a fairly large inheritance from his father's estate. In contrast to his apparent wealth, Morrice never displayed any lavishness with the exception of his fine clothing. When he travelled, he stayed in second class hotels and developed the habit of playing poor. Morrice sought refuge in warmer climates. In 1917, he was commissioned by English critic, P.G. Konody, to do a canvas depicting Canadian soldiers. The work is now in the Canadian War Collection. In 1923, Morrice fell seriously ill while in Tunis. He died in Tunis on January 23, 1924 and was buried on the 25th in the European cemetery.

His paintings were eagerly sought by collectors during his lifetime. After his death, Matisse sent a tribute letter for Morrice to the editor of L'Art et Les Artistes. At the same time, Dunoyer de Segonzac organized a memorial exhibition of his work at the Salon d'Automne, an honour rarely given by the organization to a foreign artist. Today, his paintings are still eagerly sought and sell for high prices.Indies.

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James Wilson Morrice
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