Artwork by James Edward Hervey MacDonald,  Sunset

James E.H. MacDonald

oil on board
signed with initials and dated 1910 lower left
5 x 7 ins ( 12.7 x 17.8 cms )

Auction Estimate: $20,000.00$15,000.00 - $20,000.00

Price Realized $17,250.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

Collection of N.D. Young, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Paul Duval, The Tangled Garden: The Art of J.E.H. MacDonald, Scarborough, 1978, pages 21-26

Between December 1903 and 1907, MacDonald worked for a design and illustration firm in Central London, England founded by his fellow colleagues from The Art Students League originally formed in Toronto. While in a global centre of arts, MacDonald took the opportunity to experience the English landscape, estates and gardens within the city and at its perimeter. Frequenting Hampstead Heath, the artist likened the wildness of the grounds to High Park, a favourite landmark MacDonald connected to. Regularly visiting the British Museum, Tate London and National Galleries, among the many private dealers and galleries in the city, MacDonald was exposed to and influenced by the English landscape master's like John Constable and the European Impressionists.

Upon returning to Canada in 1907 to rejoin his family and the Grip Limited, the impact of his time overseas integrated into his moody and atmospheric works until 1911. Often favouring darker impressionistic landscapes during this period, the sketches and canvases seek to maximize dramatic effect with a loose but delicate application of the paint. Drama, weather and light were integral to MacDonald and his life-long affection of cloud effects figured prominently. In “Sunset” the moody but charming composition instills a dark but comforting calm. The weight of the impending ink dark sky as the sun nears setting has been broken up with the last remnants of the days light in the wispy ribbons of pastel clouds, gracefully encircling the central tree top. Though the influence of the English landscape masters can be seen in this work, this transitionary period signals the drama and atmosphere of the Canadian landscape the artist sought to express in his later Group of Seven period works.

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James Edward Hervey MacDonald
(1873 - 1932) Group of Seven, OSA, RCA

J.E.H. MacDonald was born in Durham, England in 1873 of Canadian parents. He took evening art classes at the Hamilton Art School as a teenager, before relocating to Toronto. In Toronto, he studied at the Central Ontario School of Art. From 1894, he worked as a graphic designer at Grip Ltd. In 1903, he sailed for England and joined Carlton Studios, a London graphic firm. On his return to Canada in 1907 he rejoined Grip and began to paint the landscape near Toronto. Around this time, Tom Thomson joined the Grip staff. Frank H. Johnston joined a short time later. These artists found that they had much in common and began going on sketching trips as a group. In 1910, he exhibited for the first time at the Royal Canadian Academy. By 1912, all the original members of the Group of Seven had met and were sketching quite regularly together. MacDonald was devastated by the accidental drowning of Tom Thomson in 1917. He designed a brass plaque to Thomson's memory which was mounted to a cairn erected at Canoe Lake. The first official Group of Seven exhibition took place in May of 1920. MacDonald accepted a teaching position at the Ontario College of Art in 1921 and was appointed as principal in 1929. He continued to go on painting trips, but his teaching responsibilities sapped his energies and he did few large canvases during this time. He died in Toronto in 1932.