Jock Williamson Galloway (James) MacDonald
(1897 - 1960)
Jock Williamson Galloway (James) MacDonald was active/lived in British Columbia / Canada, Scotland. Jock MacDonald is known for automatic painting, abstraction, surreal.
Jock Williamson Galloway (James) MacDonald
Biography from the Archives of askART
The following is courtesy of Alan Ross:
Biography from Joyner Waddington
Jock Macdonald was born in 1897 Thurso, Scotland and died in 1960. He immigrated to Canada in 1926 to teach at the new Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.
Macdonald's early work was in the Group Of Seven tradition, but in 1934 he painted his first abstract or automatic work, Formative Color Activity (NG of Canada, Ottawa).
In the late 1930s he became a friend of Emily Carr, and in 1940 of Lawren Harris, who encouraged him in his abstract experiments. These included automatic paintings in a Surrealist vein, and in the 1950s he was connected with the abstract group Painters Eleven.
During the last five years of his life Macdonald's output was extraordinary, as he threw himself into experimenting with various techniques and media. He taught at various art colleges in the course of his career and is considered to have played a leading role in advancing the cause of modern art in Canada.
In 1926 Jock Macdonald moved to Vancouver to teach at
the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts. He met Frederick
Varley there and sketched in the British Columbia mountains with him.
Varley's sense of colour influenced Macdonald, who switched from his
preferred medium of watercolour to oil at this time. In 1940, when
Lawren Harris moved to Vancouver, Macdonald was in poor health and
struggling to make ends meet.
Biography from Heffel Fine Art Auctions Vancouver
Harris's arrival buoyed and inspired him,
and the two painters undertook a sketching trip into the mountains in
the summer of 1941. They covered a great deal of terrain, from Banff
and Lake Louise to Yoho and Lake O'Hara, and finally the Columbia
Icefield, the setting of this dramatic, energized depiction of the
Athabasca Glacier. Macdonald's work is filled with emotion, and here he
has captured the luminosity of the ancient ice, which glows through the
melting surface of the glacier. The palette of cool blue ice and sky,
with compacted white snow against bare rock, gives this work a palpable
sense of the coldness of the place it depicts.
a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery Toronto of Macdonald's
work in the spring of 1960, the artist had many doors open for him.
Joyce Zemans notes how "the Roberts Gallery, which 'previously…wouldn't
look at [his] stuff' asked to represent him, taking six oils and six
watercolours immediately. He was pleased in spite of the gallery's
former position, as Roberts was 'an excellent gallery'."
In "Plato's Cave", Macdonald depicts darkness and depth that contrast
luminous, amorphous shapes with emanating red and cream coloured forms.
Zemans writes that "Macdonald moved beyond the all-over composition to
concentrate on a powerful central image. It is an image that comes alive
primarily through colour and through the tension established between
the fluid elemental shapes." The title alludes to Plato's "Allegory of
the Cave", a symbol for contrasts between ideas and the perception of
By not concerning himself with the representation of "natural
appearances" Macdonald's painting is not "an escape from life but may be
a penetration into reality-and an expression of the significance of
Always an inspiring teacher, Macdonald had a lasting effect on his
students and colleagues. William Ronald, fellow Painters Eleven member,
remarked: "I owe everything to Jock…Anything that I do is due to Jock.
Without him I think I would still be in the third-year drawing and
"Plato's Cave" highlights the philosophical views that
Macdonald expressed throughout his painting career, continuously adding
a deeper level of meaning to his art.
Macdonald taught at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts
until 1933, when he and Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley formed
the British Columbia College of Arts. Both artists painted together at
Garibaldi in 1929 and 1934. After their school closed, Macdonald spent
several years living simply at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, before
returning to Vancouver in 1936 to teach and paint. For the next decade,
before turning to abstraction, the landscape would dominate his work. In
the early 1940s Lawren Harris moved to Vancouver, and Macdonald and
Harris went on sketching trips together and exchanged ideas about the
Transcendental movement and theories from the leading proponents of
spiritualism. Macdonald spent the summers of 1942 and 1943 in Garibaldi
Park, and the effect of these influences can be seen in stunning works
such as this, in which the formal and spiritual merge in the magnificent
mountain forms and glowing light. Macdonald exclaimed that the nearby
Sphinx Glacier "was the most powerful force I have ever seen outside the
mountainous waters of the open Pacific", and here found a cosmic
oneness with nature.
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