Le Jeune, James George (1910–83), painter, was born 24 May 1910 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, son of Anthony Le Jeune, musician, of French and English descent; his mother (whose name is unknown) was Irish. When he was 2 years old the family moved to Brittany, France, where he was educated at a CBS. He later went to boarding school at Aston-le-Walls House, Northants. In the 1930s he began his artistic training in Paris and went on to study at Heatheley's Academy and the Byam Shaw School in London before spending some time at the Art Students' League in New York. This progressive educational institution, where Charles Brady (qv) also studied, was very influential in America in this period. On returning to London he studied architecture at the London Polytechnic. At the outbreak of war he joined the British army and served in North Africa and Italy. At the end of the war he returned to London to establish himself as an architect, though he continued to paint and began to exhibit his work.
In 1950 he came to live in Ireland. Initially he worked as an architect under Alan Hope (d. 1965); however, by the mid 1950s he had given up the profession to devote himself to painting. He was a regular exhibitor in Dublin at venues such as the Little Theatre gallery in the Brown Thomas department store on Grafton St., and at the Victor Waddington gallery, where he held his first one-man show (1954). Early reviews of his work were on the whole favourable, though comment was made on shortcomings in his technique in painting flesh and the sombre colours of his landscapes. In the succeeding years any such problems were resolved and he emerged over the following decade as one of the leading portrait painters in Ireland. He painted many public figures such as Lt.-gen. Patrick Mulcahy (qv) (1962; McKee Barracks, Dublin) and chief justice Thomas O'Higgins (1977; King's Inns, Dublin). He also painted May Craig (qv), the well known Abbey actress. His self-portrait (National Self-Portrait Collection, University of Limerick), of which he painted a number, is a good example of what has been called his ‘flickering palette’, with its rich colour and delicately rendered tones. The sense of character and life he captured in his own face is also typical of his work as a portrait painter; hence the considerable reputation he achieved in his lifetime, which has remained high in the years since his death. Despite this, he has not received the critical attention one might expect – which could be attributed to the fact that he worked in an essentially academic style, though with an impressionistic virtuosity.
He was a regular exhibitor at the RHA from 1951 to 1982. The lists of his exhibits there give a good impression of the range of his subject matter. While many of them were portraits, he also produced many landscapes and seascapes (often of the west of Ireland), hunting and racing scenes, and images of life in Dublin city. He was elected an associate member of the RHA (1961) and a full member (1973). In the later part of his life he lived at Delgany, Co. Wicklow. He suffered a heart attack in December 1982 and died 29 January 1983 at Talbot Lodge Nursing Home, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, and was buried at Kilquade cemetery, Co. Wicklow. He and his wife, Pamela, had three daughters. A retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the United Arts Club, where he had been a member, in September 1984.