JEH Macdonald was a member of the artistic group which called themselves "The Group of Seven". Macdonald was a friend of and worked as a commercial artist, with several of the other Group of Seven members. Macdonald was born in Durham England on May 12th, 1873 and moved with his family to Hamilton, Ontario in 1887 where he studied art. He was a gentle quiet man who possessed the soul of a poet and artist. In 1889 he relocated to Toronto in 1889 where he took a position with Grip Ltd, as a commercial artist and set about learning his trade. As with all 'artists' he dreamed of painting his own canvases and began experimenting with styles and settings.
In 1911 he quit his job, took his wife and family to Thornhill, Ontario and began life as a landscape artist. He quickly developed a new and unique style and gave a show in November at the Arts and Letters Cub in Toronto where Lauren Harris was overwhelmed with Macdonald's work and approached him about working together. In 1912 they held their first joint show and in 1913 they travelled to New York City to view and exhibit of comtemporary Scandinavian Art. This show convinced them that the wild wilderness of Northern countries carried a spirit and inspiration which could be recreated on canvas in a uniquily Canadian form.
By 1918 they had established an informal relationship with other artists that adhered to and were instrumental in expanding this new Canadian approach to painting. They organized the first of many excursion into the Ontario wilderness by rail. They rented a caboose from Algoma Central Railway and were able to negotiate an arrangement whereby they could hitch onto trains travelling through the area and when they found an opportune location to paint, they would be shuttled onto a siding and could spend as many days as they wished exploring and painting the wilderness.
This was the period of Macdonald's greatest Ontario work and by 1920 he and Harris and five other artists decided to put their work together and hold an exhibit at the Art Museum of Ontario. The show was a limited success but the artists were so encouraged that they formed the group of seven. Macdonald's most impressive works from that period were The Solemn Land, Leaves in the Brook, Autumn in Algoma, Falls on the Montreal River, Forest Wilderness and Algoma Waterfall.
His later period period is his mountain phase during which he he spent much of his time painting the Canadian Rockies. Some of his impressive works from that collection are the series of Lake O'Hara paintings, the Goat Range and Lake McArthur. In 1922 he had accepted a position as a teacher at the Ontario College of Art but in 1931 suffered a stroke. 1931 also witnessed the disbandment of the Group of 7 and in 1931 he passed away.