James Williamson Galloway Macdonald
Although he painted landscapes throughout his life and drew inspiration from nature, Macdonald's best paintings show his struggle to find an abstract form of expression.
James Williamson Galloway MacdonaldJames Williamson Galloway Macdonald, "Jock," artist, educator (b at Thurso, Scot 31 May 1897; d at Toronto 3 Dec 1960). Educated in Scotland, he enlisted in 1915, and was wounded in France in 1918. He entered the Edinburgh College of Art, graduating with a diploma in design and an art specialist's teaching certificate in 1922. He was employed as a designer and educator in England, and was appointed head of design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts in 1926. He began to paint in oils under the tutelage of Fred VARLEY in a style strongly influenced by the GROUP OF SEVEN.
Although he painted landscapes throughout his life and drew inspiration from nature, Macdonald's best paintings show his struggle to find an abstract form of expression. Among the first abstract artists in Canada, he immersed himself in painting the experience of his environment at NOOTKA SOUND on northwest Vancouver Island in 1935-36. One of the most important teachers in modern Canadian art history, he and Varley founded the innovative BC College of Arts (1933-35). He taught at the Provincial Institute of Technology at Calgary (1946-47) and, from 1947 until his death, at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto.
Numerous Canadian artists acknowledge the impact he had on their development. Instrumental in founding the Calgary Group in 1947, he was a key figure in the influential Ontario abstract group PAINTERS ELEVEN, and was active in most Canadian art societies. He is best remembered for his free-flowing abstract watercolours and the often majestic paintings of his last years - without question his masterpieces.