J.E.H. MacDonald, Designer
J.E.H. MacDonald, Designer
An Anthology of Graphic Design, Illustration and Lettering
Carleton University Press
Robert Stacey & Hunter Bishop
9 X 12 inches, 160 pages
THOUGH BETTER KNOWN as a brilliant landscape painter and founder-member of the Group of Seven, J.E.H. MacDonald (1873-1932) was arguably Canada's first professional graphic designer, as we understand the term today—and one of the most versatile and gifted this country has produced. Heavily influenced by such leaders of the international Arts and Crafts movement as William Morris, Walter Crane and John Ruskin and their Canadian disciples, A.H. Howard, Robert Holmes and G.A. Reid, MacDonald carved out an original path for himself by incorporating native Canadian elements into his designs for books, magazine illustrations, bookplates, lettering, armorial bearings, illuminated presentation addresses, wall-plaques and signs, word-marks, and a host of other applications.
This book—the first full-length presentation of MacDonald's work in the applied-arts field—reproduces hundreds of examples of his illustrations for books and periodicals, his hand-lettered inscriptions, signs and illuminated addresses, his corporate and institutional signage, and his designs for commerce and culture. They reveal a sensitive but sure touch that could handle with confidence an astonishingly wide range of media and applications.
A projected companion volume will contain a full biographical account of his design career, followed by a selection of his prolific writings and lectures on art, architecture, design and decorative art.
J.E.H. MacDonald: Designer is the product of over twenty years' research, undertaken initially by the late Hunter Bishop, former librarian and archivist of the Arts and Letter Club of Toronto, then by Robert Stacey, who assembled the images, captions and chronology for this volume. Following William Thomas: Architect, by Glenn McArthur and Annie Szamosi, it is the second in a projected series of monographs on significant Canadian designers, architects, artists, photographers and craftspeople published under the Archives of Canadian Art imprint.
Hunter Bishop was the former librarian and archivist of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, the place made famous by the Group of Seven who used to meet there regularly in the early part of the twentieth century. Hunter Bishop carefully researched and preserved artifacts from this fascinating era of art and thought in Canada.
Robert Stacey is a Toronto-based writer, art and design historian, curator and editor with a special interest in Canadian art, design, illustration, photography, architecture and cultural photography. A graduate of the University Toronto, Mr. Stacey was the first Fellow in Historical Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada in 1991-92 and was writer-in-residence at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1997. He is the instigator behind the imprint Archives of Canadian Art (and Design).
In his prolific output, recent publications and co-publications include J.E.H. MacDonald: Designer, Source/Derivations: The "Other" Art of Allan Harding MacKay, and North by South: Peleg Franklin Brownell.
As senior designer at Toronto's prestigious Grip Ltd., J.E.H. MacDonald presided over the talented studio of artists who, meeting regularly at the Arts and Letters Club, banded together in 1920 as the Group of Seven. Although he quit Grip in 1912 to paint full-time and later taught at the Ontario College of Art, MacDonald was a working designer until his premature death. His credo in life as well as in graphic and decorative art was "The Harmony of Means and Purpose."
Following his death in November 1932, the year in which he took a recuperative holiday in Barbados and later produced six of his most brilliant canvases, the Group of Seven was formally disbanded. Without J.E.H. MacDonald, the fire was gone.