|J. E. H. MacDonald
The Art History Archive - Canadian Art
Canadian Landscape Artist
Biography by Brandi Leigh - 2008.
James Edward Harvey MacDonald was born on May 12th, 1873 in Durham England. He emigrated to Canada as a teen with his English mother and Canadian father when he was only fourteen. Once he completed his studies of art in both Hamilton and Toronto he began to work at Grip Limited from 1895 to 1911 along with other members of the Group of Seven.
When MacDonald was twenty six he married Joan Lavis – a student at McMaster University; the two had a son named Thoreau in 1901. During this time he became Art Director at Grip, and supervised many fellow artists including Johnston, Thomson, Lismer and Carmichael. MacDonald enjoyed sketching, becoming a member of many sketching clubs in Toronto and taking many sketching trips along with others from Grip. He also enjoyed working with his hands, and did carpentry work around the house. Some of his work included big frames which he made to fit his artwork. Not only did he supervise his fellow artists but was considered a father figure because he would help the other artists to improve their own works.
MacDonald joined the Arts and Letters club of Toronto, where he became friends with Harris. The two shared a common interest in Canadian Art and Theosophy. In 1917 MacDonald took some time off his painting to pursue poetry; this change was probably due to the death of his friend Tom Thomson. A volume of MacDonalds poems, entitled ‘West by East’ was published after his death.
In the fall of 1918, MacDonald took a painting trip to Algoma with some of the members of the Group of Seven. “Algoma Waterfall” is one of MacDonalds most famous paintings, he finished it in 1920. The Group of Seven was officially formed in 1920 and MacDonald was considered its founding father.
In 1922, MacDonald returned to employment as a teacher at the Ontario College of Art. During his summers, he traveled to Lake O’Hara to paint, and returned every year until 1930. In 1931 he suffered a stroke and ended up spending his recovery time in Barbados during the summer of 1932.
Unfortunately MacDonald passed away in the fall of 1932, and due to his death, the group of seven quickly fell apart.
Artworks by J. E. H. MacDonald
By the River Early Spring - 1911
J.E.H. MacDonald - The Little Falls Sketch - 1918