James Williamson Galloway (Jock) Macdonald

James Williamson Galloway (Jock) Macdonald

1897 - 1960
ARCA BCSFA CGP OSA P11

Jock Macdonald was born in Thurso, Scotland. After serving in the First World War, he attended the Edinburgh College of Art from 1919 to 1922. After a stint in commercial design, he joined the School of Art in Lincoln, England as Head of Design.
In 1926, Macdonald arrived in Canada to take up a teaching post at the Vancouver School of Art as Head of Design. While there, he undertook sketching trips with both students and colleagues - in particular Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley - to locations such as Garibaldi Park.
In 1933, Macdonald and Varley left the Vancouver School of Art and struck out on their own, opening the British Columbia College of Arts. When the school was forced to close in 1935 due to financial difficulties, Macdonald and his family moved to a small village on Nootka Island on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The two years he spent on Nootka Sound, living close to nature, were a profound experience for Macdonald. He painted powerful landscapes and depictions of native villages. Concurrently, he was also experimenting with abstraction, based on a sense of the mystic and spiritual qualities he perceived in the landscape. Both these two directions in his work were of equal strength.
When he returned to Vancouver, he received the recognition of a one man show at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1940, followed by another show there in 1944. He also exhibited internationally, and his work was presented in 1938 in A Century of Canadian Art at the Tate Gallery in London and in 1939 at the New York World's Fair and the San Francisco Exposition.
In 1946, Macdonald was appointed Director of the Art Department of the Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary, and during this time also taught at the Banff School of Fine Arts. In the mid-1940s he met and studied with British Surrealists Dr. Grace W. Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff, who introduced him to working in an automatic manner, and the direction of his work changed. He produced a fine body of work in watercolour and pen and ink. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art acquired 86 of these pen and ink drawings and watercolour automatics for their collection.
In 1947 Macdonald moved to Toronto and taught at the Ontario College of Art. At this point he was deeply immersed in abstraction, and in 1953 he became part of the Painters Eleven group. Once again, his work transformed, and he was painting on a larger scale using the language of formal abstraction.
In 1952, Macdonald revisited Vancouver Island, as artist in residence at the Art Centre of Greater Victoria. While there, he taught, lectured and mounted a solo exhibition. In 1954, he was awarded a Canadian Government Fellowship and spent a year in France painting, then returned to his teaching at the Ontario College of Art.
In 1960, Macdonald was at a high point in his career - he had a solo show at Dorothy Cameron's Here and Now Gallery in Toronto, and a semi-retrospective at the Art Gallery of Toronto. At the end of that same year Macdonald suddenly passed away.

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