Francis Edward James was a flower and landscape painter.
James, who was self-taught as a painter, worked primarily in watercolours. He suffered from ill health throughout his life and yet was an active exhibitor, showing at the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, Fine Art Society, Dudley Gallery, Society of British Artists, Grosvenor Gallery, New Gallery, New English Art Club, Dowdeswell Galleries, Beaux Arts Gallery, Baillie Gallery, and with Agnew and Sons, Arthur Tooth and Sons and the Goupil Gallery in London. He also exhibited with the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colours, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Manchester City Art Gallery.
In 1884 he was elected a member of the Society of British Artists, a society which appointed JW its President in 1886. In 1888 when JW was presented with a letter asking for his resignation, James proposed a vote of censure on those who had signed the letter, but this was not passed.
James also entered into membership of the New English Art Club in 1888, the year JW exhibited with the group. In 1908 he was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, becoming a full member in 1916.
James was a close friend of JW and a frequent visitor to the artist's studios at 21 Cheyne Walk and then at 13 Tite Street. In 1884 he was included in a list of artists to be invited to JW's private view for 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (#08683). He was also among those proposed invitees to a dinner organised by W. C. Symons to congratulate JW on becoming an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Munich, a dinner which was to be held at the Criterion in Piccadilly on 1 May 1889 (#00631). Their friendship was such that he was also notably invited to less public affairs, such as an exclusive dinner party organised by JW in May 1893, to which Charles Conder, Vere Blunt, A. C. Blunt, G. H. Stephenson and Beatrix Whistler were also invited (#07425).
James was not only good friends with JW, but also with Beatrix, and he wrote with real feeling to JW at her death in 1896, describing himself as one of the privileged few to have understood 'her value & charm' (#02400).
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971.Johnson, J., and Anna Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980.