Life and work
James studied at Central School of Art and Design, London, and the Royal College of Art, London. His college thesis, on French artist Jean Hélion, led to Hélion introducing him to London's Albemarle Gallery and subsequently to James' first solo exhibition there in 1990. James moved from London to Glasgow in 2004.
Of roughly the same generation as the Young British Artists, James is perhaps unusual in making work on the model of the traditional easel picture. It frequently takes the form of small-scale paintings on stretched canvas or polyester, sometimes incorporating artist-made frames. He also makes drawings and prints.
As a critic Merlin James has published widely, including many articles and contributions to books and catalogues. In 2002 he became the first to hold the Alex Katz Visiting Chair in Painting at Cooper Union. In 2007 James represented Wales at the 52nd Venice Biennale.
Notable solo exhibitions
- 2014 Merlin James – Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Aanant & Zoo, Berlin, Germany
- 2014 Freestyle, Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany 
- 2013 Signal Box, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany (catalogue) 
- 2013 Merlin James, Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London, UK (catalogue) 
- 2012 Merlin James: In The Gallery, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, Eire
- 2007 Merlin James, Venice Biennale, 52nd International Art Exhibition, Wales Pavilion, Italy (catalogue) 
- 2005 Merlin James, Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, NY, US
- 2004 Merlin James: Easel Painting, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland – 40 works covering a 20-year period.
- 2001 Merlin James, Andrew Mummery Gallery, London, UK 
- 1996 Merlin James, Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge, England
- 1995 Poussin's Phocion, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Wales 
- 2013 Inevitable Figuration, Museo Pecci, Prato, Italy
- 2013 Picture Show, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland
- 2010 Long Long Gone, Leo Koenig, New York, NY, USA
- 2009 Nus, Fortes Valeca, São Paulo, Brazil
- 2008/9 21: Selections of Contemporary Art from the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY, USA
- 2006 Faces of a Collections, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany
- 2004 The Edge of Real, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK
- Dunne, Aidan (23 February 2012). "A Wizard in the Gallery". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2014 – via HighBeam Research.
- Cohen, David (26 August 1996). "Painting with attitude: the art of creative spontaneity". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
- Barry Schwabsky and Morgan Falconer et al., Vitamin P2, Phaidon, London, 2011.
- James, Merlin. "Painting per se" lecture delivered at Cooper Union Great Hall, New York, 28 February 2002.
- Firth, Hannah and Merlin James. "Merlin James: artists from Wales at the 52nd International Art Exhibition, Venice." Cardiff, Wales. 2007.
- Merlin James at Aanant & Zoo, Berlin[better source needed]
- Mansfield, Susan (26 March 2004). "Live reviews: Merlin James: Easel Painting". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2014 – via HighBeam Research.
- Artforum review of Merlin James at Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire, by Mara Hoberman
- Painting per se, Lecture delivered by Merlin James at Cooper Union Great Hall, New York, 28 February 2002
- Frieze review of Merlin James at Sikkema Jenkins & Co, by Ara H. Merjian
- Represented by Aanant & Zoo, Berlin
- Represented by Kerlin Gallery, Dublin
- Represented by Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York
- Represented by Mummery + Schnelle, London