Artwork by James Williamson Galloway Macdonald,  Morning on Nootka Sound, B.C.

Jock Macdonald
Morning on Nootka Sound, B.C.

oil on board
signed and dated 1936 lower left; signed, titled and dated 1936 on the reverse
12 x 15 ins ( 30.5 x 38.1 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $40,800.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

Dr. and Mrs. George Moir Weir, Vancouver
By descent to the present Private Collection, British Columbia
“Recent Nootka Sketches”, The Art Emporium, Vancouver, January-February 1936 as “Nootka Sound (Morning)”
‘Recent Nootka Sketches at Art Emporium’, “Vancouver Daily Province”, 1 February 1936
Joyce Zemans, “Jock Macdonald The Inner Landscape A Retrospective Exhibition”, Toronto, 1981, page 59
Michelle Jacques, Linda Jansma and Ian Thom, “Jock Macdonald Evolving Form”, London, 2015, page 20, listed page 161 as “Nootka Sound (Morning)”
In the summer of 1935 Jock Macdonald and his family, along with friend Harry Tauber and his friend/lover, Les Planta, set sail on the S.S. Maquinna for the remote community of Nootka Island. Macdonald was in search of a newfound spiritual expression to fuse his interests in philosophy, nature and science, and set out to establish an artist colony, hoping to leave the economic reality of life during the Depression in Vancouver behind. Adjacent to Vancouver Island and separated by Nookta Sound, Macdonald and his family found an abandoned cabin three miles from the First Nations village of Friendly Cove on Nootka Island and spent two years living there. As Ian M. Thom states, “it was a period of enormously hard work, punctuated by injury and poverty, and – remarkably – it was a time when his work grew deeper and richer.”

Life in this isolated environment allowed Macdonald the opportunity to paint freely and connect with nature in his pursuit of a spiritual experience. He became absorbed in his artistic experiments while in Nootka, exploring new forms. As Joyce Zemans suggests, Nootka afforded “an opportunity to renew contact with nature and to seek the stimulation for revitalized artistic activity”. The works produced in this period were transitional in nature, as Macdonald began to explore the universal language of art in the elements of modality.

Macdonald kept a diary during his sojourn in Nootka, recording that he would row to and from the lighthouse and across the lagoon near the cabins, finding inspiration in his surroundings. Life was tough, but he gathered a great deal of material for his work, inspired by the environment. “Morning on Nootka Sound, B.C.” of 1936 is a prime example. The rays of light break through the clouds, highlighting the monumental mountains towering over the sea, embodying a sense of the ethereal.

Macdonald executed several oils, drawings and watercolours while in Nootka, recording that nine oil sketches were sent to Harry Hood at The Art Emporium in Vancouver to be exhibited in January of 1936, including “Morning on Nookta Sound”. “I painted and sketched as much as I could during this time, in the hope that I might sell a sketch and have some funds again”, Macdonald wrote. The “Vancouver Daily Province” reviewed the exhibition, reporting that “During the past few months J.W.G. Macdonald, one of Vancouver’s well-known artists, has discovered the lure of new fields and the country about Nootka has been the inspiration for his brush.” “Morning on Nootka Sound” was purchased from this exhibition in 1936 and has remained in the possession of one family until now, a rare work from this seminal period in Macdonald’s career.

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James Williamson Galloway Macdonald
(1897 - 1960) Painters Eleven, Canadian Group of Painters,

Jock Macdonald was born on May 31, 1897 in Thurso, Scotland. A graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art, Macdonald emigrated to Canada in 1927 to become head of design and instructor in commercial advertising at the newly established Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design). Inspired by the natural environment, Macdonald and his colleague Frederick Varley, head of drawing, painting, and composition, spent much of their free time on weekends and summer vacations on sketching and camping trips in the Garibaldi Mountains. When the Depression forced severe salary cuts in the art school budget, Macdonald and Varley decided to found the B.C. College of Art. It quickly established a reputation as a centre of new and stimulating ideas in a variety of art forms including music, dance and photography as well as the visual arts. The school operated for two years before declaring bankruptcy, but its influence on the local cultural community of the period is now legendary. Macdonald himself was infected by the exciting ideas fostered at the College and he began experiments in abstraction. He soon found landscape painting in the tradition of his Group of Seven contemporaries too confining whereas abstraction opened up new vistas of expressive freedom. During his twenty years in B.C., Macdonald was active as artist, teacher, exhibitor, and arts organizer. He was a member of the B.C. Society of Artists, with whom he exhibited regularly; a charter member of the Federation of Canadian Artists; and a member of the Vancouver Art Gallery Council for eleven years, serving on its judging, exhibitions and hanging committees, and implementing its popular Saturday morning classes. The Vancouver Art Gallery accorded Macdonald his first one man show in May 1941 and five years later mounted a solo exhibition, of his "automatic" watercolours. Macdonald moved to Toronto in 1947 and became instructor of painting at the Ontario College of Art. In 1953 he was instrumental in the founding of Painters Eleven, a group dedicated to the promotion of abstract art. He wrote later: "In training young students I believe it absolutely necessary that the student be provided a program of study which forces him to observe nature very closely in many diverse directions. After some two years of such study I encourage the student to expand his inner self and begin to expand his personality. I am quite aware that the young student is often intuitively aware of his consciousness of the twentieth century and could create in modern ways but I believe that every student should, first of all, increase his vocabulary of form and colours by observing nature forms and be initiated into the laws of balance and dynamic equilibrium." Jock Macdonald died at the age of 63 on December 3, 1960.