James Cowie was born and worked in Scotland throughout his life. His style differentiated him from his fellow Scottish artists. Cowie did not begin his artistic training straight away. It was only after this failed university degree and his lack of enthusiasm for his teaching post at Fraserburgh Academy that he enrolled into the Glasgow School of Art. Cowie took up teaching at the Bellshill Academy near Glasgow after the First World War but continued to paint and produced several portraits during this period. After his first solo exhibition at the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow in 1935, Cowie became Head of Painting at Gray’s School of Art. Cowie produced some of his most impressive works during his time at Hospitalfield. He held the summer school there producing portraits of the other students, among them Robert Cloquhoun and Joan Eardley. Cowie continued to teach and work until he suffered a severe stroke in 1952 which he sadly never fully recovered. The Scottish Committee of the Arts Council held a memorial exhibition in his honour in 1957.