James Archer (1823 - 3 Sep 1904) RSA, was a Scottish painter of portraits, genre works, landscapes and historical scenes.
Archer was born in Edinburgh, the son of Andrew Archer, a dentist, and Ann Cunningham, and educated at the Royal High School. He studied at the Trustee's Academy in Edinburgh under Sir William Allan and Thomas Duncan (painter). In 1840 he was accepted as a student at the Royal Scottish Academy and first exhibited there in 1842, with the biblical painting, "The Child St John in the Wilderness". He became an associate of the academy in 1850, and in 1858 an Academician (RSA)
Archer worked in oils, pencil and chalk, and at the beginning of his career specialised in portraiture, his best-known work includes children and people in costume as its subjects - in fact, he was the first Victorian painter to do children's portraits in period costume. In 1849 he exhibited his first historical picture 'The Last Supper' at the Royal Scottish Academy. His work after that mostly consisted of scenes taken from literature or legends that were popular at the time, such as Shakespeare and King Arthur. In about 1859 he began to paint a series of Arthurian subjects, including 'La Morte d'Arthur' and 'Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere'. In 1864, he moved to London.
In the 1880s, Archer travelled to the USA, where he painted Andrew Carnegie's portrait, and to India, where he painted landscapes and people in costume.
Archer died in 1904 in Haslemere in Surrey, survived by his son and three daughters from his marriage to Jane Clerk.
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