Sir James Jebusa Shannon, a genre, figure and portrait painter, was born in the U.S.A. of Irish parents. He married Florence Mary Cartwright.
Shannon came to London in 1878, aged sixteen. He studied at the Royal College of Art from 1878 to 1891 under Edward Poynter, receiving the Gold Medal for figure painting.
He became a renowned society portraitist, rivalling John Singer Sargent. His sitters included the Marchioness of Granby, Ellen Terry and Sarah Bernhardt. He frequently showed his sitters carefully posed, gazing at an aesthetic object, in order to suggest both the sitter's beauty and connoisseurship. In his works women were very much intended as objects for the male gaze. Iris (1891; Richard Green Galleries, London), bears an obvious debt to Whistler's Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl y038, and also to his tendency to entitle his paintings of women after inanimate objects such as flowers or shells. Several of his portraits won him awards. Shannon's The Flower Girl (exh. R.A. 1901; Tate, London) was bought by the Chantrey Bequest in 1901 and his Phil May (1902) in 1923.
Shannon exhibited in London from 1881 to 1922 at the Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Grosvenor Gallery, New Gallery, New English Art Club, Society of British Artists and International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, a society that formed with Whistler as its President in 1898. He held his first one man show at the Fine Art Society in 1896.
Shannon was a founding member of the New English Art Club in 1886, a group with which Whistler exhibited at their first show in 1888. In 1888 Shannon became a member of the RBA, a society that had appointed Whistler its President in 1886. He was among those who resigned in support of Whistler in 1888 when Whistler was forced to give up his Presidency (GUW #03506).
In 1889 Shannon was elected a member of the ROI, in 1891 of the RP, acting as its President from 1910 to 1923, and an associate of the RA in 1897, becoming a full member in 1909. After some dispute over his membership of the RA (to which Whistler objected) he was made an honorary member of the ISSPG in 1899 (#10051). He was made an associate of Royal Hibernian Academy in 1907.
Shannon was among those who attended a dinner organised by W. C. Symons to congratulate Whistler on being made an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Munich, a dinner held at the Criterion in Piccadilly on 1 May 1889. He asked A. L. Baxter from the Reform Club to accompany him (#05412).
Shannon owned Blue and Silver: Trouville y066 and in 1892 lent it to Whistler's exhibition Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces at the Goupil Gallery in London (#08205).
He was an honorary member of the Royal Miniature Society and from 1885 until at least 1920, a member of The Arts Club. He was also a member of the Chelsea Arts Club, which was founded on 21 March 1891 at the suggestion of Whistler (GUW #09573).
He was knighted in 1922. A memorial exhibition of his work was held at the Leicester Galleries in 1923, and his work was included in the Royal Academy's Late Members' Exhibition in 1928.
Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994 ; McConkey, Kenneth, Memory and Desire: Painting in Britain and Ireland at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, London, 2002; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.