MacDonald, James E. H.

MacDonald, James E. H. Biography

Canadian landscape painter who was a member of the Group of Seven, an early-20th-century art group dedicated to establishing a distinctly Canadian art.

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. In 1907, 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. He also favored the rural farmland of southern Ontario, as pictured in Tangled Garden (1916, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa). Determined to reproduce the mood and feeling of the rugged landscape, MacDonald used intentionally rough brush strokes and stylized forms. 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.

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 oil paintings in almost annual exhibits.

MacDonald is best known for his oil paintings of Algoma between 1918 and 1922. These oil paintings 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.

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