James McBey was an artist and Scottish etcher but was not recognized for his work until later in his life, after the etching revival. He loved to travel to exotic places and nothing compared to his fascination of Tangier, Morocco. In 1929 he visited the United States and met Marguerite Loeb, a photographer and bookbinder from Philadelphia. They Married in 1931 and later moved to Tangier, Morocco, where they lived for twenty years.
Marguerite McBey donated her husband’s collection to the American Legation building, and the art is currently displayed in the dining room, also known as the McBey Room. His art includes several watercolors, three oil paint portraits, and fourteen Moroccan etchings. His most famous painting is a 1952 portrait of a servant girl named Zohra. He captured a look that is both soft and guarded; the girl has already learned how to defend herself against the aggression of the street. This painting is hung proudly in the dining room of the Legation building where Zohra or the Zohraliza, as some people call her, can be appreciated by every visitor.
McBey’s other collection covers the period from 1901 to 1998. It is comprised of seventy works by more than forty artists from eleven countries in a variety of media. Artists in the McBey collection include Oskar Kokoschka, Herbert Bayer, and James McBey. The collection also contains a water color by Emily Sargeant, the sister of John Singer Sargent, and one of the Casbah by noted English photographer and set designer, Cecil Beaton.