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 Pegi Nicol (Nichol) MacLeod  (1904 - 1949)

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Lived/Active: Ontario/New York/Quebec / Canada      Known for: modernist painting, illustration, graphics, murals, teaching

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BIOGRAPHY for Pegi MacLeod
Facts/Data
Birth
1904 (Listowel, Ontario, Canada)
 
Death
1949 (New York City)

Lived/Active
Ontario/New York/Quebec / Canada


Taken on the artist's wedding day in 1936


Often Known For
modernist painting, illustration, graphics, murals, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Pegi Nicol MacLeod (nee Margaret Kathleen Nichol, AKA: Pegi Nichol Macleod, AKA: Pegi Nichol, AKA: Pegi Nicol) (1) was a painter, illustrator, graphic artist, muralist, printmaker, writer and educator.  She was born in Listowel, Ontario (about 100 miles west of Toronto) and raised in Ottawa, Ontario (1910 - 1934).  She lived in Toronto from 1934 to 1937 and in New York City for the rest of her life and where she died.
 
Her mediums were oil, watercolour, pastel, gouache, ink, graphite, woodblock* print and mixed mediums.  Her subjects were landscapes, still life, west coast Indians, urban scenes, figures, portraits, genre, allegory, symbolism, ethnological studies (e.g. totems, artefacts) and (during World War II) war activities.  The locations are the cities and countryside around where she lived and worked - Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, New York and Fredericton (see below).  There are also works from her trips to British Columbia and Alberta (see below).  Her styles were Expressionism* and Fauvism*.  The AskART image examples The School Garden, Ottawa (c.1912), Sailors Drill (c.1944) and Red Coat (c. 1937-1949) are good illustrations of the swirling effect of bold colours, movement and exuberance, capturing the essence of the subject, and are characteristic of her expressionist paintings; The Slough (c.1928), a self- portrait, is one of her fauvist masterworks (2).
 
Quote: “I try to turn my weird street into something rich and strange.” - Pegi Nicol MacLeod (1945).
 
Her art education included studies at the Ottawa Art Association (c.1919 -1922) under Franklin Brownell and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Montreal (c.1923 -1924), probably under Edmond Dyonnet (see AskART).  Other students there at the same time included Paul-Emile Borduas, Anne Savage, Marian Scott, Lillian Freiman and William Goodridge Roberts (see all in AskART).
 
Her teaching career, at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton (1942 -1948) included co-founding with Lucy Jarvis (1896 -1985) the Observatory Art Centre at Brydone Jack Observatory (3) and teaching summer art school.
 
She was also part of two special projects under the auspices of the National Gallery of Canada, both of which resulted in National Gallery exhibitions and substantial additions to the nation’s historical art collections.
 
In 1927, under the direction of ethnographer Dr. Marius Barbeau, she travelled to Morley, Alberta where she painted on the Stoney Indian Reserve, and in 1928 she travelled to the Skeena River in British Columbia to record the deteriorating totem poles before engineers began restoration work.  The works produced on the Alberta trip were displayed as part of the 1927 exhibition "Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern" at the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa). (4)
 
In 1944, she was commissioned, by the NGC, to paint the activities of women in the military services.  She produced 110 paintings before the war’s end.  Most of these are now part of the Canadian War Museum collection, and were included in the “Canadian War Art” exhibition at the National Gallery in 1945.
 
She belonged to the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour (1936) and the Canadian Group of Painters* (1937).  She was also a member of the intellectual elite of Canada as a personal friend and a frequent dinner guest of Maud and Eric Brown (Director of the National Gallery) from the time she was 18 years old.  Her other associates included Dorothy and Harry McCurry (Assistant Director of the NGC), Kathleen Fenwick (curator NGC), Arthur Lismer (Group of Seven*), Marian Scott (see AskART), Frank Scott CC (5) (distinguished Law Professor and political activist), John King Gordon CM (5) (distinguished Ethics Professor, political activist and member of the UN Secretariat) and Vincent Massey CC (5) Canadian Ambassador to the United States and future Governor General, who was a friend and patron from her early twenties until her death.
 
In addition to the above artist groups she also exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1926 - 1932), the Art Association of Montreal (6) (1927 and 1929) and the Ottawa Art Association (1933).  Her works were also included in "Artists of the British Empire Overseas" (Royal Institute Galleries, London, England -1937), “A Century of Canadian Art” (Tate Gallery, London, England -1938), the "New York Worlds Fair” (1939), the "11th Biennial Water Color Exhibition" (Brooklyn Museum, New York - 1941),  “Contemporary Canadian Painters” (National Museum of Fine Arts, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -1944), “Canadian Women Artists of Today” (Riverside Museum, New York - 1947), “Fifty Years of Painting in Canada” (Art Gallery of Toronto -1949) and she was grouped with Mabel Lockerby, Kathleen Morris and Marian Scott (see all in AskART) for a show at the Art Gallery of Toronto (7) (1941).  She was also a guest exhibitor with the Group of Seven* in 1928.
 
Posthumously, her works have been included in several Canadian landmark exhibitions including, “Canadian Painting in the 30s” (National Gallery of Canada - 1975), “A Terrible Beauty: The Art of Canada at War” (Canadian War Museum, Ottawa - 1979), “Canadian Artists of the Second World War” (The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario -1981) and “ Visions and Victories: 10 Canadian Women Artists 1914 -1945” (Museum London, Ontario - 1983).
 
Recently, her works were in “Another Modernity – The Question of the City, 1915 - 1950” (Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art - 2003), “Canvas of War - Masterpieces from the Canadian War Museum” (McCord Museum, Montreal - 2003), “Full Space - Modern Art from the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art” * (Ottawa Art Gallery, Ontario - 2004) and “About Face: Portraits and other Pictures” (The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario - 2005).
 
Macleod’s first solo show was in 1932 at Eaton’s (department store) in Montreal. Since her death there have been several shows that focused on her work. The National Gallery of Canada had “Pegi Nicol MacLeod, 1904 -1949: Memorial Exhibition” (1949); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts had a retrospective (1950); the Royal Gallery, Montreal had a retrospective (1964); the Robert McLaughlin Gallery had a retrospective (1983); the Canadian War Museum had “Paragraphs in Paint: The Second World War Art of Pegi Nicol MacLeod” (1998) and Carleton University, Ottawa had “Pegi Nicol MacLeod: A Life in Art” (2005).
 
Her works are avidly collected. They are also in numerous public collections including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), the Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Museum London (Ontario), the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, New Brunswick Museum (St. John), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), the Ottawa Art Gallery (Ontario), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum (Charlottetown, P.E.I.), the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, N.B.), and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Alberta). The Canadian War Museum has 103 Pegi Nicol Macleod works in its permanent collection and there are 136 in the National Gallery of Canada.The Art Gallery of Ontario is the home of her archives including sketches and ephemera donated by her family 50 years after her death.
 
Framed segments of a mural she painted in 1941 can be viewed at Carleton County Vocational School in Woodstock New Brunswick.  A photo of MacLeod working on it is in the book Pegi by Herself: The Life of Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Canadian Artist (see AskART book references).
 
As noted above she was also a writer and illustrator, examples of work in these areas can be seen in the following publications: Canadian Nation (illustrations - March 1928, April 1928, May 1929, June 1929), The Canadian Forum (articles - October 1936, December 1936), Maritime Art (article - December 1941), and in Canadian Art (articles - October 1943, February 1947, March 1947, December 1949).
 
Her awards include the National Gallery of Canada's last Willingdon Prize* for painting in 1931.
 
As an important artist her work is illustrated and discussed in most books about Canadian Art, Canadian Modern Art and Canadian War Art.  There are also two monographs: Daffodils in Winter: The Life and Letters of Pegi Nicol MacLeod, 1904-1949 (1984), edited by Joan Murray and Pegi by Herself: The Life of Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Canadian Artist (2005), by Laura Brandon (see AskART book references).
 
In 2005 the Michael Ostroff movie Pegi Nicol: Something Dancing About Her was produced by National Film Board of Canada.
 
 
 
Footnotes:
 
(1) She mostly signed Pegi Nicol MacLeod after 1937.
 
(2) The Slough was commissioned by Ronald McCall (wealthy collector, art dealer and Oxford friend of Frank Scott) as a wedding gift to Marian Mildred Dale Scott (see AskART) and Frank Scott in 1928.  The odd title, the double sided similar image, and the cyclamen flowers (a symbol of the Virgin Mary), have allegoric and symbolic meaning perhaps only fully understood by Pegi.  The painting is also illustrated in Laura Brandon’s book Pegi By Herself (see AskART book references) and in the National Film Board movie Pegi Nicol: Something Dancing About Her (see above).   Sources: Sotheby’s (Ritchies) catalogue description for lot 29 and Pegi by Herself: The Life of Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Canadian Artist (2005), by Laura Brandon.
 
(3) William Brydone Jack was Professor of Mathematics and President of the University.  He convinced the college council to erect an observatory in 1851, which is now the oldest existing observatory in Canada.  Constructed of wood, it has an octagonal tower capped with a copper-clad rotating roof especially designed to house its equatorial telescope.  Over the years, it has also served as faculty club, headquarters for the "Fiddlehead" poetry journal, and an astronomical museum displaying Jack’s instruments.  It was declared a National Historic Site in 1955.  Source: Fredericton Heritage Trust.
 
(4) Barbeau also arranged for visits to the Skeena by A.Y. Jackson and Edwin Holgate in 1926 and for Anne Savage and Florence Wyle in 1927.  Their works were also included in the subsequent exhibition, as were Emily Carr's and others.  Many of the paintings, drawings and, in the case of Wyle, poems produced on the Barbeau trips, are in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada (see all in AskART).
 
(5) CC and CM are post-nominal designations of the Order of Canada. CC indicates the very highest honour Canada can bestow on a citizen of outstanding service to the country - Companion of the Order of Canada; OM indicates Officer of the Order of Canada; and CM indicates Member of the Order of Canada. The Order of Canada was created in 1967 to replace British originated honorary titles like Sir or Lord, which are now not awarded to Canadians.  At the time of his death in 1967, Vincent Massey's name would have been followed by the post-nominals: PC, CH, CC, CD, BA , MA, FRSC (hon), LLD(hon)BC, LLD (hon) Queen's, LLD(hon) Sask, DCL(hon).  
 
(6) The AAM became the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1948.
 
(7) Renamed the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1966.
 
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx
 
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.

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