James Elder Christie was a portrait and genre painter.
Christie received his artistic training at art school in Paisley and South Kensington. He became known for his portraits, paintings of children, moral allegories and illustrations to the poetry of Robert Burns. He won two gold medals at the Royal Academy in 1876 and 1877.
In the 1870s Christie attended life classes in M. Barthe's studio in Limerston Street, in Chelsea, classes which Whistler also attended at this time. J. E. Christie described Whistler as 'a trim, prim little man, with a bright, merry eye' who was treated with great deference by the Greaves brothers who always accompanied him. Christie told the Pennells: 'Whistler made small drawings on brown paper with coloured chalks ... the figure (always a female figure) would always be about four inches long ... the drawing was bold and fine and not slavishly like the model. The comical part was that his satellites didn't draw from the model at all, that I saw, but sat looking at Whistler's drawing and copying, as far as they could, that'. It has been suggested that a drawing lent to the Whistler Memorial exhibition in London in 1905 by Mme Marchesi as 'Figure' (Szepmuveszeti Museum, Budapest), may have been not the work of Whistler but of one of the other members of his class, perhaps Christie.
On 9 November 1882 he was elected an artist member of Glasgow Art Club, resigned on 15 February 1889. In 1893 he moved back to Glasgow, and was re-elected to the Club on 20 December 1894, and finally elected as an honorary member on 29 December 1913.
Following a period in Paris, Christie joined the New English Art Club, where Whistler exhibited in 1888. Early in 1891 Christie was invited to a farewell dinner for the landscape and orientalist painter Theodore Wores at Chelsea Arts Club, which was chaired by Whistler (#09573). He was also included in the list of possible guests invited to Whistler's Criterion dinner in May 1899 (#00631).
Records of Glasgow Art Club; David Martin, The Glasgow School of Painting, 1902; 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; Caw, J. L., Scottish Painting 1620-1908, 1908; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.