Craig, James Humbert (1877–1944), landscape painter, was born 12 July 1877 at 16 Brougham St., Belfast, second of five children and the only son of Alexander Craig, wholesale merchant, and his wife Marie Metezzen, a Swiss national, who had married in Belfast in 1874. Soon after his birth the family settled at Bangor, Co. Down, where the children were privately educated. As a boy he enjoyed sports such as swimming, rugby (he was a founder member of Bangor rugby club), and angling. This last was to be a lifelong interest and an important complement to his landscape painting. Initially, it was intended that Craig would take his place in the family business, where he worked for a time as a salesman. However, he continued to have artistic ambitions, enrolling at Belfast College of Art though he spent less than a term there. He also travelled to America but returned within six weeks.
Craig exhibited for the first time at the RHA in 1915 and was to do so regularly throughout his career. By this time he was devoting himself increasingly to his painting while he continued to live at the family home, Craiglea, 160 Groomsport Road, Bangor. Around 1919 Craig bought Touramona Cottage at Cushendun, Co. Antrim. While he painted in Donegal and Connemara as well as travelling to France, Spain, and Switzerland, the landscape of the Antrim coast was always the key source of inspiration for his painting.
He married (1924) Annie Seaton Lilburn at May St. presbyterian church, Belfast. The couple moved to ‘Dunedin’ on the Antrim Road, Belfast, though they also spent a great deal of time at Cushendun. By this time Craig had become established as a leading landscape painter. In 1925 he was elected ARHA and in 1928 a full member of the RHA. He had been a member of the Belfast Art Society since 1920 and was among the first nine academicians elected when the society became the Ulster Academy of Arts (1930), along with such figures as Sir John Lavery (qv) and William Conor (qv). Also during the 1920s Craig was a member of the Ulster Society of Painters, formed in 1921 to encourage the development of painting in Northern Ireland, with Craig as its president. Throughout his career he exhibited his work regularly. In Dublin his work was shown at the Victor Waddington gallery and in Glasgow at the Royal Institute of Fine Arts. He also exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, and in London at the Fine Art Society and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. During the later 1930s his work was included in the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy. Craig also exhibited internationally at the exhibition of Irish art in Brussels (1930) and the Olympic art exhibition in Los Angeles (1932).
Craig's popularity was also spread through his work as a designer of posters and as an illustrator. In 1927 the Empire Marketing Board and the Northern Ireland Ministry of Commerce commissioned a poster intended to represent rural life in Northern Ireland, entitled ‘The flax pullers’. Craig illustrated two books by Richard Hayward, In praise of Ulster (1938) and The Corrib country (1943). Craig was one of the best-known Ulster artists of his time, and his work can be placed firmly within the academic tradition. Using an impressionistic technique he aimed to capture not just the ever-changing light and atmosphere of the landscape, but also something of his own response to a particular location.
On a painting trip to Donegal in May 1944 he was taken ill. He returned to his cottage at Cushendun, where he died 12 June 1944 from perforated ulcers. He was buried at Layde parish church, Cushendall, Co. Antrim. The following year a memorial exhibition of his work was held by the RHA; at the Oriel Gallery in Dublin a centenary exhibition was held in 1978.