About this artwork

This dramatic portrait shows the printmaker James McBey. Despite a poverty-stricken childhood in the north of Scotland, McBey embarked on an artistic career which made him internationally successful. Almost entirely self-taught as an artist, his work helped to revive the practice of etching in Britain during the early Twentieth Century. Adventurous by nature, McBey travelled widely in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central and North America. He worked as a war artist in France and Egypt during the First World War. Lumsden’s portrait suggests something of the sitter’s strong personality. He has captured McBey’s striking features and intense gaze, depicting him in the process of working.

Ernest Stephen Lumsden

Ernest Stephen Lumsden

Lumsden taught printmaking at Edinburgh College of Art. He wrote the standard manual on etching practice, ‘The Art of Etching’ in 1925, and became President of the Society of Artist Printmakers (initially based in Glasgow, then based in Edinburgh) from 1929. Born in London, Lumsden initially intended to pursue a naval career, but this was curtailed due to poor health, which continued to plague him throughout his life. He travelled widely in Europe, Asia and North America and specialised in depicting topographic views, particularly of architectural scenes. He also worked as a portrait painter when the market for etchings collapsed in the 1920s. Lumsden was married to Mabel Royds, an artist and colleague at Edinburgh College of Art.