JAMES EDWARD HERVEY MACDONALD, O.S.A., R.C.A.
NEAR MT ODARAY, ROCKY MTS
oil on board
signed with initials and dated Sept 4, ‘28; also signed and titled on the reverse
8.5 ins x 10.5 ins; 21.6 cms x 26.7 cms
Mt Odaray, which soars over 3,100 metres upward into the British Columbian sky, is located in Yoho National Park, a few kilometres from Lake O'Hara, J.E.H. MacDonald's favorite western painting place. In fact, as Catharine Mastin writes: "Of all the Group of Seven members who visited the Rockies, J.E.H. MacDonald was the most entranced of all by Lake O'Hara. The beauty of the area triggered in him a response that went far beyond that of other Group artists who sketched there." MacDonald visited the west annually from 1924 to 1930. Dr. Mastin writes that his passion for this area was such that MacDonald "made more trips to O'Hara than to any other place, including Algoma, Georgian Bay and Algonquin Park."
Mt Odaray, the subject of this lot, is also the subject of one of MacDonald's earliest, and among his best-known, mountain canvases, Rain in the Mountains 1924-25. So pleased was he with the result of this canvas that MacDonald submitted it for inclusion in the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. While his effort was arguably a far more stylized interpretation of the mountainscapes he sketched with such vivacity, MacDonald would soon learn to tighten the composition of his work to better communicate the scale of the mountains enveloping him on his hiking trips.
In this lot, we see evidence of the refinement of an innovative technique MacDonald employed that addressed this compositional challenge and left fellow artist A.Y. Jackson rather envious. Mastin quotes Jackson's observation: "The usual problem is that the viewer's eye goes to the top of the composition. By stressing the decorative quality of the foreground, moss on rocks, mountain flowers, little trees such as tamarack, MacDonald overcame this difficulty." A truncated peak, and an increasingly interesting foreground provided scale, rendering a better sense of the majesty of the mountains and improved the overall composition of these subjects.
Catharine M. Mastin (general editor), The Group of Seven in Western Canada, Key Porter in association with The Glenbow Museum, Calgary, 2002, pages 46, 53, 57 and page 52 for Rain in the Mountains, reproduced in colour.
Private Collection, Ottawa
Department: Canadian Fine Art