Lot #101

J.E.H. MacDonald
Lake O’Hara

oil on board
signed and dated 1925 lower left
8.5 x 10.5 in ( 21.6 x 26.7 cm )

Auction Estimate: $90,000.00$70,000.00 - $90,000.00

Possibly George Overton, Winnipeg
Arnold Brigden, Winnipeg, circa 1945
Estate of Arnold O. Brigden
Collection of The Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1973
"The Brigden Collection, A Winnipeg Centennial Exhibition", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 29 May-13 October 1974, no.40
"Development of Canadian Art", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 26 March 1977-2 April 1978
"The Development of Canadian Art", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 10 June 1978- 28 January 1979
"The Development of Canadian Art", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 10 March 1979-13 July 1980
"Some Canadian Landscape Painters from the Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 10 October 1981-28 February 1982 Little Pictures, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 19 February-17 April 1983
"Stored Secrets: The Vault on View", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 11 September-27 November 1994
"The View from Here", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 20 May-31 December 2000
"Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven", Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; travelling to the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo; The Groninger Museum, Groningen, the Netherlands; McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario, 19 October 2011-6 January 2013
"The Collection on View: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 27 June 2015-2 April 2018
"Salon Style: 20th Century Painting", Winnipeg Art Gallery, 12 October 2018-18 May 2020
'J.E.H. MacDonald, A Glimpse of the West', "Canadian Bookman", VI:11, (November 1924), pages 229-231
Patricia E. Bovey, 'Introduction', "The Brigden Collection", Winnipeg, 1974
Mary Jo Hughes, "The View from Here: Selections from the Canadian Historical Collection", Winnipeg, 2000, reproduced page 64
Gerald Friesen, 'Can You Trust It? The View From Here and the WAG Canadian Collection as Historical Documents', "Manitoba History" (Spring/Summer 2001), no.41, reproduced page 35
Lisa Christensen, "The Lake O’Hara Art of J.E.H. MacDonald and Hiker’s Guide", Calgary, 2003, pages 15, 20-23, 38-59
Jane Lytton Gooch, 'Artists of the Rockies: Inspiration of Lake O’Hara', "The Alpine Club of Canada, The Rockies Network", Fernie, B.C., 2003, reproduced page 111
Stephen Borys, "Winnipeg Art Gallery: Guide to the Collections", Winnipeg, 2010, reproduced page 77
Ian A. C. Dejardin 'Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven' in Amy Concannon, "Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven", London, 2011, page 24, reproduced page 164
Olivier Côté, 'Construire la nation au petit écran: Le Canada, une histoire populaire de CBC/Radio-Canada 1995-2002', "Septentrion", Quebec, 2014, reproduced page 209
Group of Seven members J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson all painted in the Rockies in the summer of 1924. Harris and Jackson painted in Jasper Park while MacDonald painted slightly further north at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. He was entranced. “I got to the beautiful O’Hara lying in a rainbow sleep, under the steeps of Mount Lefroy and the waterfalls of Oesa,” he wrote in "The Canadian Bookman". “For nineteen days I wandered in the neighbourhood of O’Hara. I sat and sketched her beauty.” Returning to Toronto he showed paintings of Lake O’Hara, Lake McArthur and Mount Goodsir in the January 1925 Group of Seven exhibition as well as an ink drawing of Mount Lefroy rising above Lake O’Hara, a similar view to this sketch of 1925. As Lisa Christensen, the scholar of the art of the Rocky Mountains, has observed, “It was likely one of the first scenes that MacDonald would have sketched, an easy walk from the Bungalow Camp through a rolling and open valley.” Writing about a closely related oil sketch of 1924, titled "Morning, Lake O’Hara", Christensen described the view MacDonald depicted here as “the classic depiction of Lake O’Hara...Looking south and slightly east across the lake... Sunlight bathes Mount Lefroy’s glaciers, Allen Glacier and Glacier Peak, in brilliant white...The lake is a still grey- green sliver of malachite.”

MacDonald returned to Lake O’Hara in August 1925 when he painted this sketch, possibly the one he described in his diary on 30 August, “Sketched Lefroy and Peaks in afternoon with O’Hara and rocky foreground.” This is a much more animated and less pastoral view than the drawing of 1924 and must have been painted from higher up, not from the shores of the lake. The water is even a smaller sliver of blue and the trees on the lower slopes are reduced to undefined brushstrokes of darker green. MacDonald has focused on the colourful, fallen rocks that superbly animate the foreground, playing against the more muted tones of the mountain peaks above and beyond.

This oil sketch was donated to the Winnipeg Art Gallery from the estate of Arnold Brigden (1886-1972). Born in London, England he came to Toronto in 1914 to join his uncle Frederick Brigden Sr., head of the photo-engraving and printing firm Brigdens Limited, and in 1919 moved to Winnipeg. Opened in 1914 Brigdens of Winnipeg was established to produce the western Canadian catalogue of the T. Eaton Co. and the firm became a centre of art activity in the city. Over the years, employees included, among others, Eric Bergman, Charles Comfort, Fritz Brandtner, Caven Atkins, William Winter, Philip Surrey and Gordon Smith. Arnold was an avid student of Alpine botany and in 1918 joined the Alpine Club spending many summers hiking around Banff. It was undoubtedly his love of the mountains that attracted him to this superb sketch by J.E.H. MacDonald.

We extend our thanks to Charles Hill, Canadian art historian, former Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada and author of "The Group of Seven‒Art for a Nation", for his assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.

This artwork is being sold to benefit the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq in establishing an endowment fund to support more diverse representation in the permanent collection, beginning with contemporary Canadian art. Cowley Abbott is pleased to donate our selling commission to the fund as part of the sale.
For additional images and/or details related to this artwork, please visit the digital catalogue: https://rb.gy/guln5m
Sale Date: May 30th 2024

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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.