Little is known about James (Jim) Peter Niland, Jr., and only one painting by him is extant. It demonstrates a passion for paint and a keen interest in cathedral architecture. Its surface is thickly encrusted with impasto, and thin ribbons of paint twist and swirl, overlap and interlace. 

Even Niland’s exact birthplace is disputed; his college yearbook lists Hollandale, Mississippi, in the west central part of the state near the Mississippi River. Another reference indicates Cary in Sharkey County. The 1940 census, when he was six, placed him in Coahoma, in the northwest corner of the state.  

In 1954 Niland was a sophomore at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. He was active in the French Fellowship Club which encouraged speaking French; members also discussed cathedral architecture. In addition, he sang in the chorus. Niland earned his bachelor of arts degree two years later, and a master of arts degree in 1959. The prior summer, 1958, he took two courses in life drawing at the Art Students League in New York. While in graduate school he taught some art classes at the university. 

In 1959 Niland was appointed director of the Greenville Museum of Art, located at that time in the Gassaway Mansion, an imposing castellated forty-room former home some distance from the city center. It and six acres had been acquired two years earlier by the Greenville Art Association; only in 1963 did it become the Greenville County Museum of Art and began to receive public funds. Niland oversaw an active schedule of music and exhibitions, which at times included his own paintings. He participated in exhibitions of the Guild of South Carolina Artists alongside Carl Blair, Jay Bardin, Darrell Koons, Laura Spong, and William Halsey

By spring 1961 Niland had departed the South and moved to New York. He took a position as registration assistant in the Abby Aldrich print room at the Museum of Modern Art. He was still there the following year, but when he left and moved to California is unknown. At the time of his death in 1998 he was living in San Francisco.