James Paterson was born into a prosperous Glasgow textile family in an era when being an artist was frowned on. Whilst working, he went to study in the early hours of the morning at the Glasgow School of Art, where he was tutored by A D Robertson, one of Glasgow's finest watercolour teachers. James spent all his spare time sketching and in 1876 at the age of 22 years, he set off to Paris with an allowance from his father, to study in the Ateliers of Jacquesson de la Chevreuse and Jean Paul Laurens.
In 1879, James made his first visit to the village of Moniaive in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland, where he found the landscape appealing and where he painted 'en plein air' as in France. He was so taken by the countryside that after his marriage to Eliza Ferguson in 1884, he set up home in a cottage gifted as a wedding present by his parents. James spent over 22 years in the area painting in the Nithsdale and Ayrshire hills, the Solway Firth and the local river and burns, capturing the elusive colours and light inherent in the Scottish countryside. During this period he formed friendships with a group of artists - Sir James Guthrie, E A Walton, W Y McGregor, E A Hornel and others - who came to be known collectively as the 'Glasgow Boys'.
Academic recognition was always important to James, and he took his official duties very seriously. He was elected RSW in 1885, ARSA in 1896, RWS in 1908 and RSA in 1910. He became President of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1922 and served as Librarian between 1910-1924, and Secretary from 1924 until a few weeks before his death in January 1932. He moved to Edinburgh in 1906, and following his wife's death in 1910, took on more public responsibilities. A museum devoted to Paterson's life was founded by his granddaughter, Anne Paterson Wallace, one of the six family artists following in his footsteps. Located in Moniaive in the house where Paterson's cook, Miss Black, lived, its artefacts were donated by the direct descendants of his family. It included the personal collection of Anne Paterson Wallace, with over one thousand photographic images by Paterson of his family, friends, and art works, together with his own records, historic writings, documents and letters from his later life in Edinburgh. The museum closed in 2003.
Source: Newsletter, the James Paterson Museum (Moniaive, 2000-2003).