Find, Learn, Price Art
Enjoy the comprehensive art database we've compiled since 1987
Membership Details
Images, sales charts, bios, signatures, 30 artist Alerts and more ...
Art auction records:  Millions of references for pricing research
Or, register for Free Alerts
To track 10 artists.

Already a member?  Sign in here

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:

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.

Biography from Joyner Waddington
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. 

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.

Following 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 reality.

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 life…"  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 painting class."

"Plato's Cave" highlights the philosophical views that Macdonald expressed throughout his painting career, continuously adding a deeper level of meaning to his art.

Biography from Heffel Fine Art Auctions Vancouver
Jock 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.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Share an image of the Artist

  Full access to biographies is
  free each Friday

About  Jock Williamson Galloway (James) MacDonald

Born:  1897 - Thurso, Scotland
Died:   1960
Known for:  automatic painting, abstraction, surreal