James MacKeown was born in 1961. He is the grandson of the late Tom Carr (1909-1999, one of Belfast’s most distinguished painters, and was taught mainly by his grandfather. Though James never attended any formal school of art, he evidently absorbed the profoundly teachable style which Tom Carr had learnt at the Slade School in London and also through his close association in the 1930’s with the Euston Road School Road of Painters. This ‘serious painting’ suited as it was to disciplined teaching, is an immediatey recognisable, self-effacing observational method of painting and and essentially private and contemplative in character.
James’s painting have a solid appearance. While retaining the fascination with light’s behaviour in quiet domestic interiors or cafes, he is more interested in the structure and form of objects and figures. Some of his interior compositions tend to tilt a tabletop with its cloth and crockery up towards the picture plane, recalling the work of Pierre Bonnard which was held in much reverence by the Euston Road School. In many paintings James adopts Tom Carr’s liking for adding his own signature in bright red. He also inherits Tom Carr’s affinity for children, catching their movements and expressions with no apparent effort.
MacKeown responded particularly to the appealing landscapes and seascapes of County Down. He has also been able to transplant this feeling for place to his other two territories, Pembrokeshire in West Wales, where he lived in the 1980’s and Normandy in Northern France, where he has been based since 1988. Etretat, where he lives, is famous as the place where Claude Monet painted his many sea-cliffs. James travels regularly between all three locations, maintaining his contacts and exhibiting more work.