The best known self-portrait by James McBey. Exceptionally fine, signed proof impression from the only edition.
James McBey was born the illegitimate son of Scottish peasants. Abandoned by his father, he was raised by his mother and her family in abject poverty, in the harsh, bleak countryside of Buchan, close to the north sea coast line. At the age of fifteen he gained employment with a bank in Aberdeen and from then on supported himself, his mother, and grandmother until his mother’s suicide in 1906. With no remaining family ties, James McBey now embarked upon a career as a professional artist – a career which was to propel him far from his humble origins to great financial success and international fame.
Self-taught as an etcher, James McBey is widely regarded as the leading figure of the British Etching Revival. His work dominated British etching during the early part of the 20th century and the popularity of his prints was without parallel. A single impression of his etching Dawn, The Camel Patrol Setting Out, realised the highest price ever attained for a living etcher’s work in this country when it sold for £445 at auction in 1928. In 1931 James McBey married the American heiress Marguerite Loeb. This self portrait etching was made at the height of James McBey’s success for inclusion in the comprehensive catalogue raisonné of his printed works.
James McBey has portrayed himself against the large north window of his studio whilst a young girl sits for her portrait in oils, behind her is the artist’s easel supporting the canvas on which he is working. It is somewhat unusual for McBey to have chosen to portray himself as a painter in a self portrait designed for inclusion in the fundamental reference book on his work as an etcher and printmaker. A proud and handsome man, James McBey clearly liked to be regarded as a famous artist in the traditional sense.
On cream wove paper with full margins and deckle edge. Very fine original condition.