James Herbert (Boston, USA, 1938) is a painter and filmmaker. His work focuses on the study of the nude and eroticism within romantic figuration. As a teenager he began attending drawing classes at Rhode Island School of Design, later on graduating in Art History from Dartmouth College in 1960. He subsequently earned a degree in painting from the University of Colorado, where he studied alongside the painter Clyfford Still and the filmmaker Stan Brakhage. In 1962 he moved to Athens, Georgia, where he gave classes at the university in painting and film for several years. In 1964 he began making films; he made over 50 of them, including Porch Glider (1970), Three (1974), Clove (1977), Two Figures (1980), Cantico (1982), Soundings (1986) and Automan (1988). He has made full-length and short films, sound and silent movies, color and black-and-white, in 16 mm and in 35 mm; he shot all his movies in different parts of the southern United States and in Italy.
His films are characterized by the sensitive way in which they reinterpret the human body through re-photography: figures of nude couples in a visual setting, reflections of the impression of touch and solitude, while the film is intensified through the grain, texture and light. In this process, as Larry Kardish wrote, Herbert “likens the fact of re-photographing a film to the repetition of a painting. The layer beneath may darken, but the work in itself becomes more substantial, acquiring great hope”.
His films and paintings now form part of various collections, including the Pompidou, MoMA, Oberhausen and the personal collections of Gus van Sant and Martin Scorsese. Herbert is also known for the video clips he has made for the groups R.E.M. and the B52s. He currently lives and works between Brooklyn (New York) and Athens (Georgia).