James William Morrice by Edmond Dyonnet
James Wilson Morrice was born in 1865 into a wealthy Montreal family, and although he trained as a lawyer, he decided, with the support of his family, to become a painter. In 1889, Morrice left for Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian, where he befriended a large circle of artists keen on exploring the modernist tends that developed after Impressionism. Of particular importance was his admiration for Anglo-American artist James McNeill Whistler, whose art-for-arts’s-sake aesthetic and penchant for simplified form and subtle colour harmonies appealed to Morrice’s poetic sensibility. Morrice’s meeting in 1909 with French artist Henri Matisse served as an introduction to brilliantly coloured and loose brushwork of the Fauves.
Morrice knew international success during his lifetime, an achievement that was of singular importance to many artists in Canada, such as Cullen and the Group of Seven. Following Morrice’s death in 1924, Matisse recalled him in a letter as an “artist with a sensitive eye, who with a moving tenderness took delight in rendering landscapes in closely related values”. He died in 1924 in Tunis.
In his constant and extensive travels throughout Europe, North Africa and, later, the Caribbean, Morrice distilled the essence of the life around him in his art.
He synthesized the coloured and brushwork of the Fauves in landscapes and in scenes of people at their amusement or in repose.
Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly book, 2000