Born in Cheshire, England, James Lloyd grew up on his father’s farm. He had some interest in art in his younger days, doing small black and white ink drawings, but it wasn’t something he pursued as he worked in a number of careers, including farm laborer, builder’s laborer, lamp lighter, stoker, bus conductor, and policeman. Lloyd was in his forties when he married his second wife, Nancy, and as she relates, it was after the birth of their first child that he seriously took up painting. “It happened one Christmas; there was no money to buy Christmas cards at Woolworths, so James said he would paint them.” (1)
Lloyd appreciated the works of the English artists Turner and Constable, and studied reproductions in books. Upon very close examination, he realized that the pictures were formed of tiny dots as a result of the printing process. It was this discovery that set him on the path of his pointillist technique. His free time was spent at the kitchen table, surrounded by his wife and eight children, meticulously painting individual dots using brushes with only a few hairs on them. Lionel Levy of the Portal Gallery, London, recalls that, “Lloyd once remarked that he found it difficult to paint unless his wife and children were all at home around him making noise.” (2)
Many of the subjects Lloyd chose for his compositions were scenes of life in the English countryside: dogs racing across a field, a leisurely stroll down a country road, children exploring a bird’s nest at the edge of a pond, and even a boy who is absolutely dwarfed by the fantastic size of the great grey horse whose reins he holds. The character of each of these subjects comes through in the extraordinary detail and attention given to each one. Lloyd also shows his sense of fun and humor in spirited compositions of movie stars and pop icons.
Nancy Lloyd felt that her husband's work should be recognized, and so called upon Sir Herbert Read whom she discovered to be living nearby. Read, a poet, scholar, literary and art critic, was the same man who helped Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Ben Nicholson establish their work. Along with fellow critic John Berger, they bought some of Lloyd’s work, encouraged him to do more, and brought him to the attention of London art dealers.
James Lloyd was eventually introduced to filmmaker Ken Russell. A television documentary was made about his life and work, titled “The Dotty World of James Lloyd”. He was also cast to play the French painter, Douanier Rousseau in another Russell film.
In 1974, James Lloyd died of a heart attack in Skirpenbeck, near York. He was 69 years old.
(1)Jacob, John. (1977). James Lloyd 1905-1974: Retrospective. London: Camden Arts Centre Exhibition Catalogue. Pg. 2
(2) Andera, Kallir, and Petullo. (2001). Self-Taught and Outsider Art: The Anthony Petullo Collection. University of Illinois Press.
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