James Topping - Painter

Artist Biography

James Topping (1879 Ė 1948) was born in Cleator Moor, Cumberland, England on February 25, 1879. He received his early education on Moor Road Board School, and while there was awarded a South Kensington honorable mention for drawing. When he was old enough for piano lessons, his parents sent him along with his two musically inclined sisters for lessons with the widow of a painter of some merit. In her home were many examples of her late husbandís paintings. James found them so much more interesting than his musical notes that the teacher in despair advised his father to send him to an art school.

Topping enrolled at the Cumberland Technical School of Art in 1892. He left this school in 1894, however, on the death of his teacher, John Adamson. In August, 1894, Topping accepted a position as an apprentice lithographer with W. H. Moss & Sons at White Haven, a small fishing port near the Scottish border. Coming to the United States in 1903, Topping found employment with the Denver Lithographing Company. Following his marriage in Colorado to Emily Allen on October 16, 1904, the couple moved to Chicago where James found employment with the Meyercord Company, manufacturers of decalcomania transfers. In Chicago Topping took additional art instruction in evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the Palette and Chisel Club.

Over the next thirty years Topping accomplished an enviable exhibition record. His awards and honors included the Municipal Art League Prize, the Robert Rice Jenkins Prize, the Martin B. Cahn Prize and a Chicago Business Menís Art Club Prize, all won in exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago; a Gold Medal and the Lydia Bonteaux Purchase Prize with the Palette and Chisel Club; three Purchase Prizes with the Chicago Galleries Association; an Oak Park Art League Bronze Medal and a medal from the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors.

In addition to the museums and organizations listed above Topping was selected to exhibit with the All-Illinois Society of Fine Arts, The Boston Art Club, the Concord Art Association, the Hamilton Club, the Hoosier Salon, the Illinois Academy of Fine Art, the Joslyn Art Museum, the Nashville, Indiana Art Association, the National Exhibition of American Art, the Nebraska Art Association, the Omaha Society of Fine Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art.

Topping made sketching trips every year. According to Mrs. Topping he never misses a chance to sketch, whether they go on a picnic or merely on a short walk. He chooses the studies he wants and paints small pictures of them. He selects only those he likes best to paint his large pictures from.

In the words of the artist there are certain things I love best to paint. My preference is rolling, sweeping hills, and wind blown trees, and the bright colors of autumn. Yes, I go far away from the middle west for my subjects, for I love the mountains. I love the East and its mountains. The West has mountains, but the air is so clear that perspective becomes out of proportion. The air is not so clear in the east, and consequently, the shadows and coloring are much more beautiful and full of contrasts.

James Topping died in his home in Oak Park, Illinois on July 24, 1948. Mrs. Topping had already passed away; the artist was survived by a daughter, three grandchildren and a sister.

Work Available For Sale

James Topping 01
James Topping 01


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