A PAINTING of the Gareloch by an eminent Scottish artist was offered for sale on Ebay. The asking price was £1,250, but it was reduced to £550.
The 15 inches by 9 inches watercolour by Sir James Lewis Caw (1864-1950), who was the director of the Scottish National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery from 1907-1930, is entitled 'Gareloch, Helensburgh'.
The son of James Caw, a draper, and Eliza Murray Greenfield, he attending Ayr Academy, then studied engineering at the West of Scotland Technical College in Ayr from 1883-7 with the intention of becoming an engineer.
In 1883 he met Sir James Guthrie (1859-1920), artist, later president of the Scottish Royal Academy, and one of the Glasgow Boys — many of whom spent time painting in the Helensburgh area.
The following year he began his career as an art critic, striking up friendships with the Scottish art community, including Sir James Lawton Wingate (1846-1924), president of the Royal Scottish Academy, the artists Edward Arthur Walton (1860-1922), Alexander Roche (1863-1921), and William McTaggart (1835-1910), the latter the pioneer of Scottish impressionism.
He worked as a draughtsman in Glasgow from 1887-9 and then in Edinburgh beginning in 1889, continuing to study science courses intermittently at Heriot-Watt College and art at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Scottish Academy School of Art.
In 1895 his painting and art criticism were well enough known to gain him an appointment as curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. He organised the museum, combining the collections into a cohesive exhibition of Scottish portrait history.
A monograph on 'Sir Henry Raeburn' written together with Sir Walter Armstrong (1850-1918) appeared in 1901. In 1907 he became the first director of both the National Galleries of Scotland and the Portrait Gallery, appointing Stanley Cursiter as the Gallery's curator. The two set out a programme of acquisitions that deepened the scope of both institutions.
In 1908, he published his 'Scottish Painting, 1620–1908', a serious study of Scotland's art. He married McTaggart's daughter, Anne Mary McTaggart (1864–1949), known as Annie, the following year.
He joined the Scotsman newspaper as art critic in 1916, remaining until 1933. His book on McTaggert, 'William McTaggart', was published in 1917. He retired from the national galleries in 1930 and was knighted in 1931. A book on Sir James Guthrie appeared in 1932 and another on Allan Ramsay in 1937.
Paintings by Sir James hang in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and he championed an appreciation of Scottish art as an important expression of national identity. He died at his home in Midlothian at the end of 1950.