James Giles, a landscape painter, was born in Glasgow. At nineteen, he was already teaching drawing classes and in 1824 went on a European tour to study the old masters. He returned in 1825, and was introduced to George Hamilton-Gordon, fourth earl of Aberdeen, who became his patron and commissioned a series of paintings of eighty-five Aberdeenshire castles from 1835 to 1855. It was Giles’ watercolours of Balmoral Castle that persuaded Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to take over the lease. The royal couple became patrons themselves and Giles helped with the landscaping of the castle in 1855, doing similar work for William Gordon at Fyvie Castle and for Lord Aberdeen at Haddo House.
Giles first exhibited at the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland. In 1829, he became an academician of the Royal Scottish Academy. He also exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts and Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. In London, he exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution, and the Society of British Artists.
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