Artwork by James Edward Hervey MacDonald,  Agawa Canyon, Algoma

J.E.H. MacDonald
Agawa Canyon, Algoma

oil on board
signed and titled on the reverse
8.5 x 10.5 ins ( 21.6 x 26.7 cms )

Auction Estimate: $35,000.00$25,000.00 - $35,000.00

Price Realized $42,480.00
Sale date: November 20th 2018

Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal
Private Collection, Montreal
David P. Silcox, “The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson”, Toronto, 2003, page 302
J.E.H. MacDonald visited Agawa Canyon in Algoma for the first time during the fall of 1918, together with Lawren Harris,Franz Johnston, and Dr. James MacCallum. The region was not a settled or a resort area; rather, they had to camp in the remote and rugged wilderness. Harris, rented a boxcar from Algoma Central Railway and turned it into a bunker for the Group of Seven painters to stay. The men were able to negotiate an arrangement whereby they could hitch onto trains travelling through the Algoma region and when they found an opportune location to paint, they would be dropped off to spend as many days as they wished exploring and painting the wilderness. The outing was so successful that they all set out again in September 1919 and twice in 1920 with Jackson and Lismer; each trip they ventured farther north and west.

Not unlike other members of the Group, trips to the Algoma region inspired some of MacDonald’s best work of this rugged landscape, and like Thomson, he was an advocate for the small oil sketch produced en plein air. David Silcox writes that “for MacDonald, the torrent of colours, the vertiginous spaces, and the aggressive power of the land’s massive shapes and grand vistas provided the ideas for the echoing silences of [the artworks he produced there].”

Under the tutelage of George Agnew Reid, MacDonald had a penchant for capturing the effects of ethereal light through the soft application of colour reminiscent of Impressionist painters of Europe. The atmospheric effect created with delicate strokes of paint was paramount for MacDonald in his early career. “Agawa Canyon, Algoma” captures the soft light of a misty summer morning in an impressionistic rendering of Canadian terrain.

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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.