by Scholes, Robert
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James Pryde (1866 - 1941)
Pryde is best known as one of a pair of artists who called themselves The "Beggarstaffs." Their name was chosen apparently at random and happened to be the name of a local grain company The other was William Nicholson. Both studied art as young men, and both even traveled to France for further study before becoming friends. Nicholson married Pryde's sister, Mabel, in 1893, and the two men joined forces to form a working relationship. They had struggled as commercial artists, but, as a way of making money, they turned to the field of poster art, which was rapidly becoming very popular at the time. Actually, the two worked together for only a few years and dissolved their partnership by 1900 to go their separate ways.
Pryde sometimes supplemented his income at this time by taking small parts on the stage. As a painter he is best known for dramatic and sinister architectural views, with figures dwarfed by their gloomy surroundings. They have something of the spirit of Piranesi's prison etchings, but they are broadly brushed. Pryde--'tall and handsome', but 'dilatory, extravagant, and unproductive for long periods' (DNB)--produced little after 1925. However, in 1930 he designed the sets for Paul Robeson's memorable Othello at the Savoy Theatre, London.