James William Giles


1801 - 1870

Landscape artist. Born in Glasgow, the son of a textile designer and artist, Giles moved with his family to Aberdeen c. 1805, his father having taken a job in a printing works at Woodside. However his father abandoned the family c. 1812 and returned to Glasgow, leaving the young Giles to support his mother and sister by painting. In his early twenties he began teaching art privately and was able to travel to London (1823) and the following year to France and Italy.

His work include landscapes around the North-East of Scotland, together with sketches and watercolours from Paris, Rome, Venice and Florence, and several portraits. Aberdeen Art Gallery holds a substantial collection of his paintings, as do Aberdeenshire Council at their Discovery Centre and the University of Aberdeen, with a number held in private collections locally.

Giles was the founding President of Aberdeen Artists Society in 1827, with his friend the architect Archibald Simpson (1790 - 1847) as Vice President, which was intended to improve the cultural aspirations of Aberdeen. Giles was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1829.

Although primariy an artist, Giles made forays into architecture and designed the landscape for Haddo House, becoming a good friend of George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen (1784 - 1860) who was British Prime Minister. He produced views of Balmoral Castle which convinced Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to lease and then buy the estate. In 1855 Giles, assisted Albert in laying out the gardens and parkland around his new castle. Giles also designed the James McGrigor Monument in Duthie Park.

He died in Aberdeen and lies buried in the churchyard of St. Machar's Cathedral.


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