McCormick, Arthur David (1860–1943), illustrator, landscape painter, and designer, was born 14 October 1860 in Church St., Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, youngest son of Arthur McCormick. He was educated in Coleraine and in the Government School of Design, Belfast. He travelled to London, in the company of Albert Morrow (qv) and Hugh Thomson (qv), to study at the South Kensington art schools (1883–6). Not long after his arrival he was contributing drawings and designs to the English Illustrated Magazine (1885–8) and Illustrated London News (1886–97). When the Ulster Arts Club was formed (1902) he was among its first honorary members.
He enjoyed travel, mountaineering, and yachting, and could indulge some of these interests when he went, as artist, on an expedition to the Karakoram Himalayas on 5 February 1892 with Sir Martin Conway. Some 300 of his illustrations, mainly watercolour paintings, appeared in Conway's book Climbing and exploration in the Karakoram Himalayas (1894), and he used his quick pencil sketches for his own publication, An artist in the Himalayas (1895). Unfortunately, he contracted typhoid fever and could not return to England till 17 January 1893. Conway was full of praise for him as an artist. Another expedition followed soon after, this time to the central Caucasus (1895) with Clinton T. Dent. The same year he was made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He illustrated close to thirty books up to the first world war (1914), with subjects mainly related to travel and adventure: for example, A. Fitzgerald, Climbs in the New Zealand Alps (1896), and Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of mystery and imagination (1905). The last book he illustrated was Henry Newbolt, Drake's drum and other songs of the sea (1914). From 1889 to 1938 he was a regular exhibitor with the Royal Academy, and his paintings in general depicted a story or nautical episode, such as ‘The last fight of old Benbow’ (1934). He also entered the RHA exhibitions (1904–13), and the last work he exhibited was ‘Morgan's march to Panama’. The Alpine Club Gallery, London, held an exhibition of his Alpine views (1904). He lived at 58 Queen's Road, St John's Wood, London, till 1934, and from then to the end of his life at 53 Colet Gardens, Barons Court, London.
McCormick turned to design in later years and was commissioned (1927) by John Player & Son, the tobacco manufacturers, to paint the sailor's head and shoulders which became such a familiar trademark on their cigarette packets. The design was not new for they had bought the rights to use a sailor's head (1883) from W. J. Parkins Co., Chester, and had already used it in various forms. The artist used a real model (identity unknown) and went to considerable trouble to follow the original design. He also painted a number of large oil paintings for them with seafaring themes; many served as posters. Several of his paintings in their possession were unfortunately later lost during air raids. He became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists (1897) and was made a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (1905) and of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (1906). He died in London, aged 83, on 12 March 1943 and was commemorated in his home town of Coleraine with an exhibition of his paintings (loaned by Players) and his book illustrations (1949). This celebration of his work was organised by the Council for the Encouragement of Music and Arts (CEMA). A similar exhibition was held in the Central Library, Belfast (1973).