Artwork by Pegi Nicol MacLeod,  Two Pipe Smokers

Pegi Nicol MacLeod
Two Pipe Smokers

10.5 x 13 ins ( 26.7 x 33 cms ) ( sight )

Auction Estimate: $1,500.00$1,200.00 - $1,500.00

Price Realized $1,200.00
Sale date: January 31st 2023

Family of the Artist

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Pegi Nicol MacLeod
(1904 - 1949) Canadian Group of Painters,

Born in Listowell, Ontario, the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. William W. Nichol. Her father was a teacher at Glebe Collegiate and later principal at the Ottawa Technical High School. She attended Cartier Street Public School and Lisgar Collegiate in Ottawa and studied painting three years under Franklin Brownell at the Ottawa Art Association. She continued her studies at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Montreal around 1922 for one year, and during that period won five medals for her outstanding work. At the Beaux-Arts, she studied alongside of Marian Scott and Lillian Freiman. From 1910 until 1934, she lived at home in Ottawa where she continued to work at her painting. In 1927, she travelled west to Alberta, where she painted among the Stoney Indians. In 1928, she went further afield to the Skeena River, B.C., with Dr. Marius Barbeau, where she was able to paint the West Coast Indians. She did many paintings along the Gatineau River and hills and one of her scenes, entitled “The Long Run”, was awarded the Willingdon Prize in 1931. This same year, she held a solo show at the Lysle Courtenay Studios on Sparks Street, where she exhibited mostly landscapes and a few portraits, including one of Marian Scott.

In 1932, she held her first Montreal solo show at Eaton’s. She did illustrations for French Canadian stories adapted by Dr. Barbeau, which appeared in La Presse, during the early months of 1933. Thirty of her paintings were shows at the Ottawa Art Association, covering a wide range of subject matter also in 1933. She often visited the home of Maud and Eric Brown. Eric Brown was Director of the National Gallery of Canada from 1913 until his death in 1939. In her book Breaking Barriers, F. Maud Brown describes those evenings as follows, “It was a happy day when we first met Peggy Nichol. She was then about eighteen and was studying at the Beaux-Arts in Montreal. Peggy was an astonishing person. She was short and sturdy, with an intelligent, pretty face. Bursting with vitality and ideas, she was always ready for a discussion. She could act, dance, and ski, and was fearless in the water. She was like a very much younger sister, and our house was her second home. We had special fun when Arthur Lismer was in Ottawa. Usually, Harry and Dorothy McCurry, Kathleen Fenwick, Peggy, and often one or two others would come in the evening. As Arthur’s pencil simply could not stay in his pocket, he would begin to sketch, perhaps Eric with the cats or Peggy with locks of her hair getting into her eyes. Then more pencils and paper would appear, and we would all sit around sketching each other while Eric read from 1066 and All That or That or The Young Visitors. We laughed and chatted all evening till it was time for the late snack in the kitchen.” One of Peggy’s sketches of Eric Brown appears in Breaking Barriers, opposite a sketch of Peggy by Arthur Lismer.

Her departure from Ottawa opened new horizons for her in Toronto. There, she was employed at window display under René Cera at the T. Eaton Company. In both cities, she was active in theatre. She had been actress and dramatist in Ottawa and in Toronto designed scenery for the Hart House Theatre. In 1937, she married Norman MacLeod (originally from Fredericton, N.B.), who became Vice-President of the Balabon-Gordon Company, Inc., of New York City, a firm of contractors and engineers. The MacLeods moved into their New York apartment soon after their marriage. In the years that followed, they had one daughter, Jane, and Pegi MacLeod began filing her sketch book with studies of Jane and her friends at play. Many of her paintings done in Ottawa had been children at work at the Ottawa Public School Gardens on Second Avenue next to her own home. But the streets of New York City held a new challenge for her with their vigorous colour and action. Writing of her New York period, Donald W. Buchanan noted, “…there in New York, the actions and events she watched were so multitudinous, the sensations she obtained from colour and motion so fluid and changing, that her own extreme sensitivity to all these stimuli proved at times almost her own undoing. She tried to put down the canvas every aspect of the chaotic bustle that met her eyes from her windows on Eighty-Eight Street; she wished to leave nothing out. As a result, in many of those pictures, the surface overflows with figures in motion, it is packed with now sinuous and graceful, now wavering and erratic, lines and shapes. She tackled, one would think, the impossible in trying to depict so much within the necessarily restricted limitations of easel painting. Some of her conceptions demanded rather the vast space of murals. Yet, remarkably enough, one sometimes comes across single water colours – for instance, her impression she did of jostling crowds before the giant Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza – which in a small space, manage through subtle and brilliant colours and flowing line to give adequately to the spectator all she wanted to express of humanity, in its variety, rising vigorous and triumphant over the mechanism of the metropolis.”

During the summers of 1940 until just before her death, she conducted art classes at the summer school of the University of New Brunswick in the “Fiddlehead Observatory” (Brydone Jack Observatory), originally built in 1826. Barbara E.S. Fisher described her school as follows, “You can’t help feeling when you talk to Pegi MacLeod that it would be great fun to let her ‘uncork’ your talents at Fiddlehead, or anywhere else. You could feel quite secure in her hands, because primarily she would encourage you in your own individual way of self-expression. In teaching, she devotes two weeks to formal drawing, using the great elms on the campus, the terrace, and the colorful Fredericton market as subjects. A 15-minute lecture each morning, and the students are on their own. The theory of color, as expressed by the impressionists comes next, and they go right into the use of oils, using one primary color at a time, with white, then one primary and one secondary, till when the six weeks have gone by, they are using the full range of colors.” The Daily Gleaner, Fredericton, recalled “Mrs. MacLeod and her young daughter were familiar figures in our community and many will recall seeing Pegi MacLeod painting from the steps of the City Hall, the colorful scene of the market.”

In 1944, she was commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada to paint the activities of the three women’s services and produced 110 oil and water colour paintings, now in the war collection of the Gallery. Following the war years, she returned to depicting the scenes of New York City and in 1947 exhibited her oil and water colour paintings in Toronto and Ottawa under the title “Manhattan Cycle”. In 1949, she died in New York City after an eight month illness at the age of forty-five. Writing of her passing, the late Graham McInnes paid her the following tribute, “Her painting was simple, gay and direct. It caught life on the wing, arresting for a moment in vivid pattern its shifting kaleidoscope. Those figures that she set down so freely remain as light as the touch of a snowflake, and as deft as a weaver’s shuttle. She found people – plain people – fascinating, and in painting them in a thousand gay and accidental groupings, she poured out her almost inexhaustible vitality. It is a cruel irony that she who, for so many of those who knew her, personified the ageless spirit of enthusiasm and enquiry, should herself have been cut down in her prime. All one can say is that her paintings – of Ottawa, Toronto, the Gatineau, the North Shore, Manhattan – with their extraordinary brightness, their unforced gaiety and their often undisciplined exuberance, remain behind her to lighten a world shadowed by her passing, and to add to the achievement of Canadian painting.” Her memorial exhibition took place at the National Gallery of Canada in 1949.

Literature Source:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 4: Little - Myles", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1978