MACDONALD, Jock




Author Tags: Art

In 2014, the Vancouver Art Gallery ran an exhibition of the works of the early Canadian abstractionist painter Jock Macdonald (1897 – 1960). At the same time, Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form (Black Dog UK 2014) was published. The retrospective publication offers biographical and critical essays about this Scottish- born, Canada-based artist whose work spanned the country and influenced 20th century Canadian art.

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is currently running the Jock Macdonald exhibition until September 7, 2015.

Before immigrating to Canada, Macdonald attended the Edinburgh College of Art and worked as a designer for a Scottish textile company. He was briefly Head of Design in 1925 for the Lincoln School of Art before being enticed to accept a position at the fledgling Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now Emily Carr University of Art + Design). He was initially inspired by the Group of Seven’s work and was friends with Fred Varley and later Lawren Harris when the latter moved to Vancouver in 1940.

By 1934 Macdonald shifted to experimenting with abstracts. Due to the difficulties of making a living in Vancouver at the time, Macdonald took a position teaching in Calgary in 1946. Here he met the artist and architect Maxwell Bates, who became a lifelong friend. Then in the fall of 1947, Macdonald took a position teaching at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. He continued to teach at the college until the end of his life.

One of his greatest achievements was co-founding Painters Eleven in 1953, abstractionists who represented some of the most advanced art being produced in the country.

Senior Curator-Historical at the VAG, Ian M. Thom writes: “Painters Eleven offered a new focus for modernist ideas in Toronto and was a breath of fresh air compared to the academicism that Macdonald found at [OCA].”

He had exhibitions in Vancouver, San Francisco and Toronto in the late 1940s but it was in 1960 that Macdonald was given a major retrospective at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario). It was the first to examine the whole of Macdonald’s career and the first retrospective the Gallery offered to a living artist who was not a member of the Group of Seven.

Macdonald died of a heart attach on December 3, 1960.

[BCBW 2015]