sketcher, sculptor and carver, was born in London, son of William Scurry, architect, and Mary née Rodd. He married at London in about 1847, but his wife died before he migrated to Australia and they had no children. Although nothing is known of his art training, Scurry exhibited five portrait busts and three medallions at the Royal Academy between 1850 and 1852 when he was living in London so he was possibly a student at the Academy Schools. His busts included one of J.E.D. Rodgers, professor of chemistry at the St George’s School of Medicine (RA 1850), a posthumous bust of William B. Essex, son of the enamel painter to Queen Victoria (RA 1852) and a plaster bust of his father (RA 1851).

James Scurry came to Melbourne in about 1853 with at least three brothers: Alfred, Frederick and William G. That year he sketched and dated four fine pencil views of local scenery, remarkable for their skill and delicacy – Coles Wharf 1853 from South Side of the Yarra , View from the Flagstaff Hill , View on the Yarra and Sandridge Pier – which he presented to the Victorian National Collections in 1884 (La Trobe Library [LT]). A pastel portrait of his brother Frederick and a self-portrait (LT) date from about the same time.

No other landscapes are known, but Scurry sometimes accompanied his exhibited three-dimensional work with 'sketches’ – a term that could have referred to rough three-dimensional work rather than works on paper. At the 1856 Victorian Exhibition of Art, listed as a colonial artist of 94 Russell Street, he showed five sculptures and a medal designed and modelled for the Agricultural Society of Australia. They were accompanied by Sketch for a Figure of 'Mercy’, Modelled for the New Houses of Parliament , and Sketch for the Figure of a Monk . The former, like his Basso Relievo, Morning , Ornamental Bracket for a Figure or Bust and Figure of 'Justice’ for New Council Chambers , was for the Assembly and Legislative Council Chambers of Peter Kerr and J.G. Knight’s Parliament House, Melbourne, where Scurry was employed under the superintendence of the sculptor Charles Summers . Presumably, Scurry’s Miniature Bust of a Gentleman and Bust of a Lady , shown in the same exhibition, were private commissions.

When work on both chambers of parliament was completed at the end of 1856 Scurry went into partnership with his colleague John Simpson Mackennal , father of the more famous sculptor Bertram Mackennal RA. They worked from Scurry’s 94 Russell Street studio, chiefly on architectural sculpture. A foundation member of the Victorian Society of Fine Arts in 1856, Scurry also showed work in its exhibitions. In the first (1857), he showed Study of a Female Head , busts of the actor Charles Young and his wife, a plaster alto-relievo of Ariel and a medallion portrait of John Pascoe Fawkner. The firm of Mackennal & Scurry won a certificate of merit for the best draped figure: Scurry’s Ariel . At the Society’s 1860 exhibition Scurry showed a bas-relief Night , a medallion and Posthumous Bust of W.G. Scurry -his brother William, who had died in Victoria.

The firm exhibited 'Cement Vases: [and] Sketches for Fountains’ at the Society’s 1861 exhibition, then Scurry sent two designs for fountains and a design for a chimney-piece to the 1862 London International Exhibition. Sculptures shown at subsequent exhibitions included Figure: Francesca (Melbourne Intercolonial 1866), a fountain (Ballarat Mechanics Institute 1869) and a bust of Charles Summers (Melbourne International 1880). An undated plaster bust of Lanney , last male member of the group of Tasmanian Aborigines rounded up by George Augustus Robinson , is at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, while other Aboriginal portrait busts are in the National Museum of Victoria.

Scurry was a founding member of the Victorian Academy of Arts (VAA) in 1870. He re-visited England in 1872 then returned to his architectural decoration and sculpture business in 1874. His plaster relief sculpture, The Shearer , modelled for the Art Union of Victoria, predateds Tom Roberts’s 'strong masculine labour’ by almost a decade (see Jane Clark). After his return he took his nephew William into the business, where he remained for thirteen years. Scurry retired to England in 1885 but later returned again. After a three-year illness, he died at his Melbourne residence, 57 William Street, North Carlton, on 4 May 1894, aged sixty-seven. The unusual headstone over his grave in the Melbourne General Cemetery was evidently to his own design.

Staff Writer
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