Born in Etrien near Belfast, Ireland on Oct. 1, 1819. Hamilton immigrated to Philadelphia in 1834 and was exposed to some of the finest painters of that time. He received encouragement and criticism from engraver John Sartain and others, but remained self-taught. After establishing himself in Philadelphia as a marine painter, his many painting students included Peter and Thomas Moran. After his first exhibition in 1840 at the Artists Fund Society, he exhibited in Boston, Baltimore, Washington, NYC, and London. It was his painting, Capture of the Serapie, a marine of John Paul Jones’ sea victory, that made him famous at an early age. He became known as “The American Turner” and was internationally famous by the time he moved to San Francisco in 1875. He joined the San Francisco Art Ass’n and established a studio at 309 California Street where he painted the maritime activities of San Francisco Bay. His romantic compositions often include ship wrecks, naval battles, fires and storms at sea. Three years after arriving in San Francisco, Hamilton died on March 10, 1878. His funeral was held in the rooms of the San Francisco Art Ass’n with prominent local artists as pallbearers. Exh: Mechanics’ Inst. (SF), 1876-80; Calif. State Fair, 1881. In: Oakland Museum (Clipper Ships off Golden Gate); Brooklyn Museum; Boston Museum; MM; Philadelphia Maritime Museum; Pennsylvania Historical Society; PAFA; Atwater Kent Museum (Philadelphia).
Edan Hughes, “Artists in California, 1786-1940”
Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); History & Ideals of American Art (Neuhaus); New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America (Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace); James Hamilton, American Marine Artist cat. (Brooklyn Museum, 1966).