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James Edward Hervey MacDonald
(1873-1932)

Back to Realism / Naturalism

Introduction
Carmichael Harris Jackson Johnston Lismer
MacDonald Varley Casson FitzGerald Holgate
Tom Thomson

Born in Durham, England, MacDonald moved to Canada with his family in 1887. In the 1890s he studied art at the Central Ontario School of Art and Design while working as a graphic designer in Toronto. As a designer, MacDonald was greatly influenced by the art and ideas of the English designers William Morris and Walter Crane, who championed the adaptation of natural forms to handmade objects. After working in London, England, from 1903 until 1907, he returned to Toronto, where he worked at Grip Limited, a commercial art firm. There he met Tom Thomson, an artist whose raw landscapes later inspired MacDonald and the other painters who would form the Group of Seven. 

MacDonald began painting in 1908, focusing on winter scenes around Toronto and logging and camping scenes in northern Ontario. Determined to reproduce the mood and feeling of the rugged landscape, MacDonald used intentionally rough brush strokes and stylized forms, so well exemplified in this painting from 1922.  

Canada 1973. Group of Seven. Realism/Naturalism. J.E.H. McDonald. Postcard with painting and stamp of Mist Fantasy.

He explained his vision of art and society in numerous articles and poems, inspired by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Leo Tolstoy. MacDonald associated with other Toronto landscapists, and from 1918 to 1920 he went on sketching trips with painter Lawren Harris to the Algoma region of Ontario, north of Lake Superior. 

Canada 1967. Group of Seven. Realism/Naturalism. J.E.H. McDonald. The Solemn Land.

Canada 1995. Group of Seven. Realism/Naturalism. J.E.H. McDonald. Falls, Montreal River.

In 1920 the Toronto landscape painters, who had been scattered by World War I (1914-1918), reunited and formed the Group of Seven. 

They began displaying their paintings in almost annual exhibits. In the group’s early years, MacDonald was the most public figure, and his work was the focus of critical attacks in the press. 

He responded to these attacks in letters to the editor both for himself and for the other artists. 

MacDonald is best known for his paintings of Algoma between 1918 and 1922. These paintings -- vast, richly colored panoramas painted with patterned brush strokes -- include Falls, Montreal River (1920, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto). He painted in the Canadian Rockies from 1924 to 1930. In 1921 MacDonald began teaching decorative and commercial design at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, where he was appointed principal in 1929. 

Introduction
Carmichael Harris Jackson Johnston Lismer
MacDonald Varley Casson FitzGerald Holgate
Tom Thomson

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