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Thomas Reid MacDonald (1908-1978)

Thomas Reid MacDonald (1908-1978)


"Drug Store" 1972


Oil on Canvas

24” x 36” Image

30.5" x 42.5" Frame


Excellent Condition. Signed Front Bottom Left with Date

Provenance: Private Hamilton Collection

  • Biography

    Born in Montreal, he studied there at the Monument National under Edmond Dyonnet, also at the Art Association of Montreal, R.C.A. Life Classes and under Adam Sheriff Scott. By 1935 he was exhibiting his paintings at the Arts Club of Montreal where his portraits, landscapes and still lifes were well received, particularly his still lifes and street scenes of Montreal.

    After the outbreak of the Second World War, MacDonald enlisted in the Canadian Army and went overseas. He was commissioned in May of 1944 and in August of the same year was appointed an official war artist. He painted portraits and actions of the First Canadian Infantry Division in Northern Italy during the breaking of the Gothic Line. In September of 1945 he received his discharge from the army and returned home to resume his career as a painter.

    In 1946 he was appointed Head of the Department of Fine Arts, Mount Allison University, Sackville, N.B. In 1947 he became Director of the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, a position he filled with distinction. He was elected Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1947 and continued to paint in the available time left to him. In 1956, R.H. Hubbard visited his studio in connection with an article on Hamilton, and noted, “Figure painting is the main preoccupation of T.R. MacDonald, a prolific painter as well as director of the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and of his wife, Rae Hendershot. MacDonald is, I am sure, unique among Canadian painters for the large number of self-portraits he has painted. The introspective quality of these is apparent also in his interiors and street scenes in which mood is strongly expressed in a way that closely relates him to American ‘magic realist’ Edward Hopper.”

    In 1957 MacDonald was elected full member of the Royal Canadian Academy. Commenting later on what his choice of subject for his R.C.A. diploma painting might be, The Hamilton Spectator explained, “True to the last to his love for privacy, Mr. MacDonald has refused to reveal any information concerning his diploma most diplomatically! Even the most subtle inquiries and intense spying on the part of the writer have so far failed to cast any light on this artistic mystery … Mr. MacDonald’s election to the Academy coincides also with his tenth anniversary as director of the Art Gallery. Running such an important institution is not as peaceful a job as perhaps an unsuspecting soul might be apt to think upon entering the artistic serenity prevailing in the halls of the Art Gallery. Under his capable management the gallery has expanded into new and modern quarters and the permanent collection has grown into the finest public collection in the province, second only to that of the Toronto Art Gallery.”

    In December of 1968 a retrospective exhibition of MacDonald’s paintings and drawings took place at the McMaster University Art Gallery and was organized by the Art Board of McMaster University with the assistance of the Women’s Committee of the Art Gallery of Hamilton. On view were paintings in oil, crayon, chalk and watercolours, spanning thirty-four years of his career. Some of the paintings were loaned from the National Gallery, the Confederation Art Centre, Charlottetown, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and other collections. In his own private collection, MacDonald cherishes several canvases by Adrien Hébert, the Montreal painter whom he knew well. In his own painting MacDonald has that same warm, refined and direct approach characteristic of Hébert’s work, especially in his street scenes and his interiors. Through his long-time association with Hébert, MacDonald was able to assist the National Gallery of Canada in its 1971-72 travelling exhibition “Adrien Hébert, Thirty Years of His Art”.

    Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979

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