Timeline

Early Years

1897

James Williamson Galloway Macdonald is born in Thurso, Scotland.

Painter

1915

At 17 Macdonald enlists and serves with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Scottish regiment in WW1.

1918

Macdonald is wounded and discharged from army service. He spends nearly a year recuperating in Ireland.

Art now reaches the place where it becomes the expression of ideals and spiritual aspirations. The artist no longer strives to imitate the exact appearance of nature but, rather, to express the spirit therein.

– Jock Macdonald

Edinburgh College of Art

1919

Macdonald enrolls at the Edinburgh College of Art.

1922

Macdonald graduates Edinburgh College of Art with a Design Diploma in Art and a Specialist Art Teacher’s Certificate. This same year he marries fellow student Barbara Niece.

1922 - 1925

Macdonald works as a designer for Morton Sundour Fabrics in Carlisle, England where he designes textiles including tapestries, carpets, bedspreads and cushions. Unfortunately no known designs can be directly attributed to him.

1925 - 1926

Macdonald answers a newspaper ad for a teaching position and becomes head of the design department, Lincoln School of Art, Lincoln England.

Group of Seven

1926

Macdonald moves to Vancouver to become Head of Design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now the Emily Carr College of Art and Design). Here he meets Group of Seven member Frederick Varley who is head of the painting department.

Painting by Jock Macdonald, titled

Jock Macdonald, The Black Tusk, Garibaldi Park, B.C., 1932, oil on canvas, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa

1927

Macdonald sets up a studio with Varley and begins painting in oils under his mentorship. Macdonald’s daughter Fiona is born.

Portrait of Jock Macdonald in Nootka Sound, c. 1935–36 Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

Jock Macdonald, c. 1930, Photo by Catharina Vanderpant, National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives

1933

Macdonald and Varley leave their positions at Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts due to Depression salary cuts. Macdonald, Varley and Harry Tauber open their own competing school called the British Columbia College of Arts Limited.

Portrait of Jock Macdonald, c. 1930 Photo by Catharina Vanderpant National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives

Jock Macdonald in Nootka Sound, c. 1935–36, Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

1935

The British Columbia College of Arts goes bankrupt and is forced to close. Macdonald and family move to the remote First Nations community of Nootka on the west coast of Vancouver Island. During his time in Nootka Macdonald painted the nearby Indian village and surrounding landscape extensively.

Painting by Jock Macdonald, titled

Jock Macdonald, Indian Burial, Nootka, 1937, oil on canvas, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Founders' Fund

1936

Macdonald’s anticipated two year stay in Nootka is cut short due to a back injury. The family returns to Vancouver and Macdonald finds employment teaching at the Canadian Institute of Associated Arts.

1938

During the academic year of 1938-39, Macdonald worked as an art teacher at Templeton High School.

Teacher

mural for the Hotel Vancouver

1939

Macdonald receives a commission to paint a mural for the Hotel Vancouver and chooses a Nootka landscape as his subject. The same year, he and his wife Barbara travel to Los Angeles where Macdonald is introduced to the great work of Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Derain, Ernst, Gauguin, Miro and Kandinsky. He was profoundly moved by this experience. In September Macdonald took a position teaching at the Vancouver Technical School.

1940

The Macdonald’s move to Capilano for a larger space to work. He gives a public speech titled "Art in Relation to Nature" that bring together his theories of abstract art and spirituality in painting. Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris arrives in Vancouver and he and Macdonald become friends.

1941

Macdonald goes on a summer sketching expedition in the Rockies with Harris. Harris introduces Macdonald to Theosophy and Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art. This year, Macdonald is elected President of British Columbia Society of Artists and mounts his first solo show (of 40 canvases) at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Watercolourist

Untitled painting by Jock Macdonald, 1946 watercolour, ink on paper Collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Jock Macdonald, Untitled [January 1946], 1946 watercolour, ink on paper, Collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Automatic Painting

1943

Dr Grace Pailthorpe (a British Surrealist artist and psychiatrist) arrives in Vancouver. She probably meets Macdonald in 1944 and critiques his work in 1945. Pailthorpe encourages Macdonald to practice ‘automatic painting’ or painting from the unconscious. Some of Macdonald’s first known automatics are housed in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Archives.

1945

Macdonald teaches his first summer at the Banff School of Fine Art and meets future Painters Eleven member Alexandra Luke. He shares with her his knowledge of automatic painting.

British Columbia Society of Fine Arts

1946

Macdonald becomes a lifetime member of British Columbia Society of Fine Arts and mounts a solo exhibition of his automatic paintings at the Vancouver Art Gallery. In the fall Macdonald leaves Vancouver for Calgary to become Head of the Art Department at the Calgary Institute of Technology. During his year in Calgary, Macdonald meets lifelong friend, artist and architect Maxwell Bates.

Exterior view of the Ontario College of Art, 1950s

Exterior view of the Ontario College of Art, 1950s, Photo by Panda Associates, Courtesy of the Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary, Source: OCAD University Archives/Visual Resources (PH506/38_9_126_006)

OCAD

1947

Macdonald accepts a teaching position at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University) and moves to Toronto to become an instructor of painting. He remains in this post for the rest of his life.

1948 - 1949

Macdonald attends summer sessions at Hans Hofmann’s School of Art in Provincetown Massachusetts and Hofmann encourages him to use colour instead of line as a form of composition.

Illustrator

1949

Macdonald spends the summer as professor at International Students’ Seminars, Breda, the Netherlands

Painting by Jock Macdonald, titled

Jock Macdonald, Revolving Shapes, 1950, watercolour, wax resist on paper, Collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Gift of Colin and Sylvia Graham

1950

Macdonald spends the summer as professor at International Students’ Seminars, Pontigny, France.

1952

Macdonald is appointed the President of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour and an executive member of Ontario Society of Artists. He is also named artist in residence at Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and given a solo exhibition.

Painters Eleven

1953

1953 marks the inception of Painters Eleven and Macdonald becomes a founding member.

Artist

Painting by Jock Macdonald, titled

Jock Macdonald, Nature’s Pattern, 1954, gouache, ink on paper, Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Purchase, 1971

1954

Macdonald participates in the inaugural Painters Eleven exhibition at Robert’s Gallery and receives the Royal Society of Canada fellowship to work and study in France for a year.

1955

Macdonald befriends Jean Dubuffet in Vence, France while traveling. Dubuffet encourages Macdonald to find new approaches to painting with oils.

1956

Macdonald returns from France to Toronto and begins experiments using Duco (plastic based paint). He works in this medium for eight months. Macdonald then discovers and begins experimenting with the painting medium Lucite 44 (a thin, fluid and fast drying medium).

Portrait of the Painters Eleven, 1957

Portrait of the Painters Eleven, 1957, Photo by Peter Croydon, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery Archives, Oshawa, © Lynda M. Shearer

1957

Macdonald attends former student and fellow Painters Eleven member William Ronald’s opening at the Kootz Gallery, New York. Clement Greenberg visits Toronto to critique the work of Painters Eleven and Macdonald mounts a solo show of his Lucite and oil paintings at Hart House.

Tom Hodgson and Jock Macdonald at the Park Gallery opening, 1958

Tom Hodgson and Jock Macdonald at the Park Gallery opening, 1958, Photo by The New Studio Photography, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery Archives, Oshawa, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2013

1958

Greenberg returns to Toronto in January and proclaims that Macdonald’s work is "hitting absolute tops". Macdonald’s work is widely exhibited.

1897 - 1960

Tom Hodgson and Jock Macdonald at the Park Gallery opening, 1958

Jock Macdonald, 1957, Photo by Peter Croydon, © Lynda M. Shearer

the Art Gallery of Toronto

1960

Macdonald is elected a life member of the International Arts and Letters Society and mounts a solo exhibition at the Toronto gallery, Here & Now. He is offered the honour of a retrospective at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now Art Gallery of Ontario). This is the first retrospective ever offered to a living artist who was not a member of the Group of Seven. Jock Macdonald taught his last class December 2nd. He died on the first day of the college’s break before Christmas on December 3rd 1960 of a heart attack.