James Ashton (4 April 1859 – 2 August 1935) was an artist and arts educator in South Australia.
Ashton was born on the Isle of Man, grew up in York and was educated at the Blue Coat School, London. After being apprenticed to a pharmacist, he studied art at the South Kensington School of Art, London and at Paris. He married Mary Elizabeth Rawlings Turnbull on 27 December 1880.
Ashton emigrated to Adelaide, arriving 11 January 1884 deciding to become a professional artist. He established the Norwood art school in 1886. He visited England in 1894 and was elected a member of the Royal Society of Arts. Returning to Adelaide in 1895 he founded the Academy of Arts and for over 30 years was the best known teacher of painting in South Australia. Among his pupils were Hans Heysen, Hayley Lever, Frank White, Gustave Barnes, Arthur Baker-Clack, his son Will Ashton, and others who have since done distinguished work. He was president of the South Australian Society of Arts for four years and is represented by three pictures in the Art Gallery of South Australia, of which "The Moon Enchanted Sea" is the best known. Paintings by him are also in the Broken Hill, Bendigo, and other galleries. He died at Adelaide on 2 August 1935 of intestinal obstruction due to hernia. He was survived by his wife and a son and a daughter.
The son, J. W. (Will) Ashton, became a well-known artist and was appointed director of the national gallery at Sydney in 1936.
- Allan Sierp, 'Ashton, James (1859–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, MUP, 1979, pp 109–110.
- Serle, Percival (1949). "Ashton, James". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.