White, James 1913-2003

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WHITE, James 1913-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born September 16, 1913, in Dublin, Ireland; died June 2, 2003. Art expert and author. Though he did not have extensive formal training in the field, White became one of the most important figures in the art world, especially in his native Ireland, where he was director of the National Gallery. White was interested in art from the time he was a child, but because his family was poor he left school at the age of sixteen to work in the John Player tobacco factory, where he was employed for thirty-one years and became a manager. At the same time White took private art lessons. After his instructor, Mainie Jellett, suggested to him that he might do better as an art critic, he successfully found work contributing art reviews to the Catholic Standard during the 1940s. This was followed by a position as art critic for the Irish Press in the 1950s and as a contributor to the Irish Times from 1959 to 1962. White also appeared on Radio Eireann and gave lectures at the Ulster Museum and Trinity College. Having proved his expertise in art, he was hired as curator of the Dublin Municipal Gallery (now the Hugh Lane Gallery of Modern Art) in 1960. Believing that art should be for everyone, White opened the gallery to children, organized a children's art holiday, and created special tours for interested public groups. He was hired, in 1964, as director of the National Gallery of Ireland. Continuing his goal to bring art to a broader range of people, he increased attendance at the gallery from about 93,000 people in 1967 to over 400,000 in 1980, the year he retired. With the help of a generous donation from the estate of George Bernard Shaw, White also managed to substantially increase and diversify the gallery's collection of artworks. White, who was also interested in ballet and was a founding member of the Irish Ballet Club, helped bring Irish, and especially modernist, art to the public's attention. He was also the author of several books on art and artists, including John Butler Yeats and the Irish Renaissance (1972), Pauline Bewick: Painting a Life (1985), and Gerard Dillon: An Illustrated Biography (1994).



Art Is My Life: A Tribute to James White, National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin, Ireland), 1991.


Irish Times, June 7, 2003, p. 12

Times (London, England), June 18, 2003, p. 30.