Sleator, James Samuel (Sinton) (1885–1950), portrait- and still-life painter, was born 27 June 1885 at Derrycarne, Portadown, Co. Armagh, one of five children of William Slator and Margaret Slator (née Thompson), both teachers. Sleator changed the spelling of his surname and used the name ‘Sinton’ rather than ‘Samuel’ as his second name. The family came from a Scottish presbyterian background, traditionally linen workers. They moved to Belfast in the late 1890s, where Sleator's father was made principal of Strandtown national school. It is likely that Sleator was educated at the same school. He attended (c.1903) Belfast College of Art, where he qualified as an art teacher. Although he became a member (1908–18) of the Belfast Art Society, he did not exhibit with them. He left Belfast for Dublin and enrolled as a mature student (1909–14) in the Metropolitan School of Art under the tuition of William Orpen (qv), who considered him a very promising student; and indeed Sleator won many prizes for his art. He was included in an exhibition of Irish art (1913) at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, where he exhibited a still-life. While a student he was the model for the head in ‘Death of Cuchulain’ (1911/12, GPO, Dublin), a bronze sculpture by Oliver Sheppard (qv). Sleator went to London (1914) to work as Orpen's assistant, and it was the following year that Orpen introduced him to Winston Churchill, to whom he gave some painting lessons.
Back in Dublin Sleator exhibited for the first time with the Royal Hibernian Academy (1915), showing four portraits, one a self-portrait latterly in the NGI. This is a rather dashing portrait; elegant and vigorous, it demonstrates his indebtedness to Orpen's style. The reviews from the critics were favourable. The NGI also has in its possession a later self-portrait.
Sleator, now a staff member in the Metropolitan School of Art, was elected an ARHA and later the same year (1917) was made a full member. He was a founder member of the Dublin Society of Painters (1920), a society aimed at offering a forum to more progressive younger painters. However Sleator exhibited only once with them, showing two works, ‘Falconer’ and a still-life. These were admired but were considered to be very much in the style of Orpen. Sleator did not keep up his membership of the society. He went to Italy (1922), where he is said to have studied for a number of years, but this is uncertain. He always felt Belfast was his home, and so it was fitting that he held his first and only one-man show at Rodman's Gallery, Belfast (1926). The portraits exhibited were mainly of Belfast personalities, including one of the novelist Forrest Reid (qv), painted 1924 and latterly in the Ulster Museum. Sleator moved to London (1927) where he assisted Orpen in his studio and painted portraits. He was appointed an Academician of the Ulster Academy of Arts (1930). When Orpen died (1931), Sleator was asked to complete a number of his unfinished commissions.
He left war-stricken London in 1941 and settled in Dublin where he became active in the art scene, joining the United Arts Club. He was appointed secretary of the RHA and moved into their house at 15 Ely Place (1942). Sleator succeeded Dermod O'Brien (qv) as president of the RHA, meanwhile painting and exhibiting portraits of many notable figures such as O'Brien and Raymond Brooke, deputy grand master of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Ireland. He never married but had many good friends and often visited his relative, the Belfast estate agent and art connoisseur S. E. Thompson. Sleator suffered a heart attack and died at the Academy house on 19 January 1950. He is buried at Mount Jerome cemetery, Harolds Cross, Dublin. The same year, a memorial exhibition was held in the RHA. A representative show was held (1951) in the Victor Waddington Galleries, Dublin.