“This semi-impressionistic painter always saw himself as a traditionalist, but he experimented with technique, style and mediums throughout his lifetime. A plein air painter, MacDonald could as easily paint an impressionistic landscape as a traditional scene of horses ploughing a field, or sheep crossing a bridge. He painted portraits in both genres as well as in pastels and was also adept with etchings and drypoints, producing his own sets of Christmas cards. It is said that he gave away as many pieces as he sold, but there was always a sense that he would provide for his family.
“MacDonald’s art can be seen in major galleries across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada and the new Canadian War Museum. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II owns two of his paintings in the Royal Collection Enterprises. The largest public collections are held by the John M. Parrott Art Gallery, housed in the new Belleville Public Library and at Loyalist College, also in Belleville. Many more remain in private hands, found in Canada and around the world, passed down through families who knew Manly MacDonald personally, or who bought them when they sold for very little.” (Source) -Charles Beale, author of Manly E. MacDonald (1889-1971) – Interpreter of Old Ontario (with permission)
Manly MacDonald (1889-1971) was born in Point Anne ON, near Bellville and studied at several important art schools in Canada and the United States. He served in Europe as a ‘war artist’ in the First World War and combined travel and painting around post-war Europe. Back in the Bay-of-Quinte area, he began painting full time in the earl 1920s and won wide recognition over subsequent decades for his landscapes and portraits. (Throughout his life, his Quinte roots and active contact with the local communities remained integral to his art.)
He took on prestigious commissions and participated in important exhibitions in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. He also began teaching in Toronto and maintained a studio there. He became an Academician of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, was a prominent member of the Ontario Society of Artists, and was a founder of the Ontario Institute of Painters. (After more than 30 years of membership in the Society, he and several other artists resigned to protest “creeping modernism”.)
He was chosen to paint the skyline of Toronto in 1959, as a gift from the city to Queen Elizabeth II on her state visit. The commission raised the ire with more modernist artists. In 1960, he mounted an exhibit at the Royal College of Art in England and for the Ontario Institute of Painters in Toronto. He returned to teach again at the Ontario College of Art in the 1960s before ill health forced him to stop. His wife Beverley died in 1969 at the age of 79. MacDonald died at 81 at Toronto’s Wellesley Hospital, on April 10, 1971. He was 81. (Biographical material adapted from an article by Charles Beale)
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