THE painter of "Suffer Little Children" and "The Red
Fisherman" was born at Guard Bridge, near St. Andrews, in January, 1847. When he
was eight years of age his parents removed to Edinburgh, and in 1857 they
settled in Paisley. There he was educated, and began the battle of life in a
photographic studio. Bent, however, upon an art career, from the age of fifteen
he attended evening classes at the Paisley School of Design under William
Stewart, drawing from the antique, and copying pictures. But it was not till
1874 that he threw up commerce, sold his photographic business, and went to
South Kensington. During his first session there he won the gold medal for
drawing from the antique, and at the schools of the Royal Academy, which he next
attended for three years, he in 1877 gained the gold medal for the best
historical painting of the year. Next he entered Julien's studio in Paris,
where, during his three years' course, he had Bouguereau for master, and men
like Solomon and La Thangue, George Clausen and Arthur Hacker for associates.
His student days over, he settled at Chelsea, and at once struck into the vein of subject which has mainly occupied him since. To the Glasgow Institute he sent his "Hallowe'en," inspired by the lines of Burns -
"The vera wee things, toddlin', rin
Wi' stocks out owre their shouther."
and to the Royal Academy he sent in 1878 "The First Dip," and in 1881 "The Pied Piper." Since then his most important canvases have been pictures of child life. Among others the most notable have been "Vanity Fair," the property of the Corporation of Glasgow, "The Golden Stairs," and "Suffer Little Children," the last named of which was taken round the country on exhibition, and became very popular. The single notable exception to his child pictures was "The Red Fisherman," a vivid and suggestive allegory which was much talked of on its appearance.
Mr. Christie remained in London till 1892, and was one of the founders, along with Stirling Lee, James M'Neil Whistler, and Onslow Ford, of the Chelsea Art Club. Then he returned to Scotland, and wrought for a time successively at West Kilbride and Eaglesham, and latterly his summers have been spent at Nairn. But Glasgow has remained his headquarters, where he has been for long identified with most of the artistic movements, and has been one of the most popular members, lecturers, and presidents of the Art Club.
Apart from his pictures of child life, he has painted a number of notable portraits, and while his canvases are occasionally to be seen at the Royal Scottish Academy, and more rarely at Paris, Munich, and Vienna, he has remained a regular and faithful contributor to the exhibitions of Paisley Art Institute.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)