Thoreau MacDonald
(1897-1960)

Scottish-born “Jock” MacDonald entered the Edinburgh College of Art after being wounded in France fighting as a Scottish soldier in the First World War. In 1926 he moved to Canada when he was appointed head of design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now called the Emily Carr University of Art and Design). Initially inspired by the Group of Seven and influenced to paint the landscapes of his adopted country, MacDonald turned more and more towards abstraction and he is considered one of the first abstract artists in Canada. Respected as a great art educator, he founded the BC College of Arts in 1933 with Fred Varley and went on to teach at the Ontario College of Art from 1947 until 1960. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the British Columbia Society of Artists, the Federation of Canadian Artists, and a founding member of Painters Eleven, a highly influential group of abstract painters based in Ontario. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

In 1935, MacDonald moved his family to the west coast of Vancouver Island. Home of the First Nation Nuu-chah-nulth people, Nootka Sound provided very difficult living conditions; however, during the year MacDonald’s family camped there, he painted some of his most important works. When A.Y. Jackson asked MacDonald to contribute to the Sampson-Matthews wartime silkscreen art program, he produced “B.C. Indian Village” (1943), a stylised rendering of the type of coastal settlement he experienced during his time on Vancouver Island. Totem poles stand proudly along a sandy shore as figures work along the waterline in front of a white church on the foothills of the large mountains in the distance.