James Cagney sketching
with artist friend John W. Hilton

James Cagney, 1899-1986

from our October 2010
Newsletter
James Cagney black and white portrait midsized Thumbnail
The story of James Cagney

Apart from his huge Hollywood fame, James Cagney had a quieter side. He enjoyed painting and the company of artists, studying and painting with some of Southern California's best .

He claimed in his autobiography that he "may have been happier as a painter than a movie star, if somewhat poorer." Artist Sergei Bongart was one of Cagney's teachers, and came to own to of Cagney's paintings. Cagney never sought public acclaim for his paitings, and considered himself an amateur. He only sold one, and that was for a at a charity auction, and that painting was purchased by Johnny Carson.


Cagney was a regular visitor to the home of famed desert artist, John W. Hilton in Twentynine Palms, were he would relax and paint far from the hubbub of Hollywood life. Cagney owned a desert get away nearby and enjoyed spending time with his neighbor and friend, John Hilton.

John's daughter, artist Kathi Hilton tells the story of when she was thirty years old and a beginning artist in her own right. She told James she was concerned that many people would say her work was too close to that of her father. Cagney took young Kathi under his arm and supportively told her, "Katy my dear, don't you worry about that, you just paint what's in your heart." To this day, Kathi says that's the best advice she's ever received, and holds memories of Jimmy most dear.

James Cagney Self Portrait Sketch

Self Portrait Sketch
(from behind and to the left)
please contact gallery

This painting is offered
from the private collection
of artist Kathi Hilton.