Herbert James Gunn was born in Glasgow on 30th June 1893. He studied at the renowned Glasgow School of Art of René Mackintosh fame and subsequently at the Edinburgh College of Art. However, though a Scot by birth and artistic training, Gunn was to develop a style very much his own, an ‘international’ modern style imbued with influences from French Impressionism, modern British painting and his Scottish heritage.
Following his studies at Edinburgh Gunn travelled to Paris enrolling at the Academie Julian under J. B. Laurens.
On his return to England Gunn rapidly established himself as a leading painter of portraits in addition to landscapes and conversation pieces. Gunn exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1923, at the Royal Scottish Academy and in Paris, where in 1931 he was awarded a silver medal at the Société Artistes Français and a gold medal at the Paris salon of 1939.
Throughout the 1930’s and 40’s Gunn’s reputation as a portrait painter increased, he was to become the portrait painter of choice to Society and the Establishment, in 1953-54 Gunn reached his apogee as a portrait painter with the commission to paint the state portrait of H.M. The Queen.
Gunn was elected to the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1945 and President in 1953, the same year being elected ARA and a Royal Academician in 1961, Gunn was also a member of the National Society of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers.
A highly successful artist, Gunn was knighted in 1962 for his services to the arts; he died at his home in Hampstead, London on 30th December 1964.
His works can be found in museums in: Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland and London, HM The Queen and National Portrait Gallery.