James Stark was an English painter. His father, Michael Stark, was a Scottish dyer who had settled in Norwich. James Stark first exhibited in Norwich in 1809 and in London in 1811. In 1811 he became articled to John Crome before moving to London in 1814; there he met William Collins, who became a friend and influenced his work. His first success came when the Dean of Windsor, the Hon. Edward Legge, bought his picture The Bathing Place, Morning (exh. London, British Institution, 1815; untraced). Later patrons included the Marquess of Stafford, George Granville Leveson-Gower (1758–1833) and Sir George Beaumont and the Academicians Thomas Phillips and Sir Francis Chantrey. Stark enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy Schools in 1817 but returned to Norwich due to ill-health in 1819. In 1821 he married Elizabeth Younge Dinmore of King’s Lynn, and they moved to London in 1830. His wife died three years after the birth of their son, Arthur James Stark (1831–1902), who also became a painter, assisting his father during the 1850s.
In 1834 a book of engravings entitled Scenery of the Rivers of Norfolk, from Pictures Painted by James Stark was published, and henceforth the heavy Dutch influence, for which Stark had been criticized in the 1820s, became less apparent. During the 1830s and 1840s he exhibited widely, mostly landscapes, throughout Britain. In the 1830s Stark developed considerable talent as a watercolour painter, and his free use of clear wash combined with a soft pencil probably encouraged his move towards the more blond range of his later oils, for example Whitlingham from Old Thorpe Grove (c. 1837–43; Norwich, Castle Museum).
Stark is represented in the following collections: Tate Gallery, London; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Norwich Museum, Norfolk; Courtauld Institute of Art, London, amongst others.