James Ferrier Pryde was a painter, poster artist and theatrical designer. His sister, the figure and portrait painter Mabel Pryde, was the first wife of the painter and poster designer Sir William Nicholson: together they had a son, Ben Nicholson, who also became a painter.
Pryde studied at the Royal Scottish Academy Schools in Edinburgh and at the Académie Julian in Paris under William Bouguereau. From 1893 to 1899 he collaborated with William Nicholson as the Beggarstaff Brothers, designing posters, for example, in 1895 for Henry Irving's Don Quixote at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Pryde was fascinated with the theatre, taking minor parts in certain performances, and designing sets.
His series of imaginary architectural paintings, painted between from the 1890s onwards and known as the 'Human Comedy', were romantic in conception and sombre in palette, for example, The Doctor (ca 1908; Tate Gallery, London), purchased by the Chantrey Bequest in 1940.
Pryde also worked in watercolour and pastel, and in 1898, having been invited to exhibit with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, a society that formed with JW as its President in this year, he showed a watercolour Phantasie (cat. no. 233) and a pastel The Man in the Hat (cat. no. 234), as well as the oil Girl on Horseback (cat. no. 120), jointly executed with Nicholson. In 1901 he exhibited Miss Ellen Terry as 'Nance Oldfield' (cat. no. 20) and The Romance of Life (cat. no. 227a) at the ISSPG.
He also exhibited with the Grosvenor Gallery, London Salon, New English Art Club, Royal Hibernian Academy, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and Royal Scottish Academy. In 1934 he was elected an honorary member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.
Illustrated Souvenir Catalogue of the Exhibition of International Art, London, 1898; Catalogue of the Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture at the Third Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1901; Hudson, D., James Pryde, London, 1949; Hudson, D., (ed.), A Memorial Exhibition of Works by James Pryde, 1869-1941, London, 1949; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; McConkey, Kenneth, Memory and Desire: Painting in Britain and Ireland at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Aldershot, 2002; Rothenstein, John, 'James Pryde', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 02 April 2003).