James McMullan has created images for magazine stories, books for adults and children, record covers, US stamps, murals and animated films but he is most well known for the over eighty posters he has done for Lincoln Center Theater. Among the most recognized of these posters are Anything Goes, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and My Fair Lady. To celebrate this achievement Lincoln Center Theater has recently mounted a permanent exhibit of his original poster art in the lobby of the Mitzi Newhouse Theater.
Another highlight of his career is illustrating the popular series of vehicle books, (including I Stink!, a monologue by a garbage truck), written by his wife, the author, Kate McMullan, which Amazon has transformed into the animated series, The Stinky and Dirty Show.
A standout in James McMullan’s work for magazines is the group of journalistic illustrations of a Brooklyn Disco that he painted for New York Magazine that became the visual inspiration for the movie Saturday Night Fever.
James McMullan’s long fascination with drawing the human figure led him to teach drawing for many years at the School of Visual Arts and to write High-Focus Drawing, which describes his approach to understanding and drawing the figure. In 2011, at the request of editors at The New York Times, McMullan created a 12-part online tutorial on drawing that was titled, Line by Line.
Along with his illustrated memoir, Leaving China, his other books are Revealing Illustrations, The Theater Posters of James McMullan and More McMullans.
James McMullan’s art has been exhibited in Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai as well as many museums and galleries in the U.S. In 2011 the New York Library of Performing Arts mounted an exhibit, McMullan Posters: Gesture as Design, and in 2012 a retrospective exhibit of his art opened at the School of Visual Arts Gallery in connection with Mr. McMullan being elected into the school’s Master Series Awards.
A travelling exhibit of the original watercolors from his memoir, Leaving China, has been mounted at the Society of Illustrators and the Century Club in New York City, the Rhode Island School of Design and is scheduled for the Norman Rockwell Museum and Washington University in 2019.
In the December 2017 issue of Vanity Fair, Mark Rozzo writes, "He is to modern-day New York what Toulouse-Lautrec was to 19th-century Paris."