Book Publication

Shadows and Light: The Extraordinary Life of James McBey

Released on 1 December 2022 by Scotland Street Press

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James McBey was the artist who went from a north-east village to painting Lawrence of ArabiaTHE PRESS & JOURNAL

James McBey’s Revival SCOTTISH ART NEWS

The story of James McBey, Scotland’s Rembrandt, revealed in amazing new bookSUNDAY NATIONAL

When Scottish painter James McBey met Faisal I of IraqTHE NATIONAL

‘ McBey – an international Scot par excellence who lived in London, the US and Morocco – largely shunned the Establishment, and lived according to his own rules.’BOOKS FROM SCOTLAND


‘There’s an empathy in these pages which provides the book with a compelling vim and vigour.’
– The Press and Journal

‘His long and colourful life, full of adventurous travels and tempestuous affairs … makes compelling reading.’
– Scottish Art News

‘While the book sets out McBey’s successes, it pulls no punches when it came to his weaknesses – the chief one being women.’
– Sunday National

‘A wonderfully written insight to the remarkable real world of James McBey. Soussi’s amazing detective work reveals a true Scot dedicated to his art and the women who helped fuel it. Every chapter provides a previously unknown gem of information about the man who wound his way from humble beginnings in Aberdeenshire to acquiring homes on three continents, setting world record prices and comparisons with Rembrandt and Whistler along the way. I could not wait to turn the page. Having exhibited the work of McBey for over 30 years now in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Shadows and Light is the encyclopaedia on one of Scotland’s greatest and still most underrated artists that will forever be on my desk. A must read for any Scottish Art enthusiast.’
Ronnie MacAskill, Director of Fettes Fine Art, Edinburgh

‘The story of renowned Scottish etcher James McBey has found its ideal teller. Alasdair Soussi brings to life not only McBey’s prodigious talent, but also his profound restlessness and longing – for home, for love, for peace – as the artist grew from a dour childhood in his beloved Aberdeenshire to find a final resting place in his equally beloved Tangier. Striking just the right balance between empathy and dispassionate analysis as he depicts the man and the twentieth century worlds that stimulated his art, Soussi spellbinds. I could not put the book down.’
– Diana Wylie, professor of history at the African Studies Center, Boston University, and author of Enchantment: Pictures from the Tangier American Legation Museum.

‘James McBey made his name as one of the great war artists in the Middle East: his famous painting of Lawrence of Arabia hangs in the Imperial War Museum. In this revelatory biography Alasdair Soussi brings this complex and mesmerising man to life, setting his art alongside his unrestrained private life, and giving him the literary portrait he has long deserved.’
– James Barr, author of A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that shaped the Middle East

‘James McBey and Alasdair Soussi are perfectly matched. The result is an enthralling read, a fascinating portrait of this important artist’
– Alexander Maitland, author of Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer

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