Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wales, James

WALES, JAMES (1747–1795), portrait-painter and architectural draughtsman, born in 1747, was a native of Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. Early in life he went to Aberdeen, where he was educated at Marischal College, and soon drifted into art. Having painted a striking likeness of Francis Peacock, a local art amateur, he received a number of commissions for portraits, principally small in size, and painted upon tinplate, and occasionally sold a landscape; but, being dissatisfied with his prospects, he went to London. Practically self-taught, he had a faculty for profiting by what he saw, and painted landscape in the manner of Poussin; but his exhibited works at the Royal Academy and elsewhere between 1783 and 1791 were portraits. In 1791 he went to India, where, although he painted numerous portraits of native princes and others, and executed the sketches from which Thomas Daniell [q. v.] painted his picture of Poona Durbar, which is said to be ‘unrivalled perhaps for oriental grouping, character, and costume,’ his attention was mainly occupied in making drawings of the cave temples and other Indian architectural remains. He worked with Daniell at the Ellora excavations, and twenty-four drawings by him are engraved in Daniell's ‘Oriental Scenery.’ He was engaged upon a series of sketches of the sculptures of Elephanta, when he died, it is thought at Thânâ, in November 1795. His wife Margaret, daughter of William Wallace of Dundee, and his family accompanied him to India; and his eldest daughter, Susanna, married Sir Charles Warre Malet [q. v.], the resident at Poona, in 1799.

[Memorial Tablet in Bombay Cathedral; Indian Antiquary, 1880; Scottish Notes and Queries, vols. iii. and iv.; Burke's Peerage; Thom's Aberdeen; Moor's Hindu Pantheon, 1810; Bryan's and Redgrave's Dicts.]

J. L. C.