James Cumming RSA, RSW (1922 - 1991)

James Cumming was a painter and teacher. He was born in Dunfermline, Fife in 1922 and studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1939 to 1941 under Andrew Gant He served 5 years with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve from 1941 to 1946 after which he resumed his studies until 1950 and was awarded a post-graduate and travelling scholarship. In 1950 he was appointed Lecturer in History and Tutor in Painting at Edinburgh College of Art. In 1951 he received a Royal Scottish Academy Award. In 1955 he had a one-man show at Gallery One in London, followed by many more and particularly at the Loomshop Gallery in Lower Largo, Fife. He also exhibited in many group exhibitions in England, Scotland, France, Canada, Wales, Holland, Switzerland, and New York. A series of retrospective exhibitions was held including the Lothian Region Gallery, Edinburgh in 1981. He was a member of the Society of Scottish Artists and President from 1958 to 1961. He was also a member of the Royal Scottish Academy for whom he was Treasurer and Secretary and a Member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolours. The two principal periods in Cumming's painting are the figurative abstraction of the early sixties derived in main part from his Lewis experience and the more geometrical and purer abstraction of the seventies onwards. The ‘painterly’ yet thinly applied textures of Cumming’s early work contrasts with the heavy impasto and rich colour themes of his contemporaries in the Edinburgh School. His later colour experimentations were to be as much intellectual as expressive, leading to a deeper synthesis of harmony and contrast. A strong element of fine draughtsmanship is a constant throughout Cumming’s work. In 1964 he was awarded an International Scholarship in the Humanities, Harvard University, USA. Other awards included a Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours prize in 1977 and Lothian Region Prize in the RSW Centenary Exhibition, Edinburgh in 1980. A memorial show was held in 1995 at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, where Cumming lived. Cumming's paintings, spanning a thirty year period, were celebrated most recently during an exhibition of his work in 2012 at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh