JAMES EDWARD HERVEY MACDONALD, O.S.A., R.C.A.
FREIGHT YARD, TORONTO
oil on board
signed and titled in pencil on the reverse
6 ins x 5.5 ins; 15.2 cms x 12.7 cms
The catalogue entry for this work from the 1960s show at the Art Gallery of Ontario, describes Freight Yard as depicting the “Area west of Bathurst Street and north-east of Old Fort York, Toronto. In the background the gas storage tank located on the north-west corner of Bathurst and Front streets.”
Robert Stacey writes that during the winter of 1911-12, Lawren Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald were sketching “gritty urban subjects that indicate a familiarity with the ‘New York Realism’ of the Ash Can School. Together in all weather they sketched at the foot of Bathurst Street capturing the effects of light on the natural and man-made atmospheres (see Figure 1).
MacDonald’s interest in urban scenes was likely sparked by Harris who had tackled this subject while living in Berlin and when he first returned to Toronto from abroad.
It was at this time and in this location that MacDonald was inspired to produce his “signal work” Tracks and Traffic (Art Gallery of Ontario). The gas works offered interesting opportunities for capturing atmosphere, inspiring Harris and MacDonald to invent a vocabulary for the language through which they would advance Canadian art. While they were not the first or only artists to concern themselves with industry and its by-products, steam and smoke, this was nonetheless an essential step in their evolution and served as a springboard for what was to follow.
J.E.H. MacDonald, R.C.A., 1873-1932, Art Gallery of Toronto, Toronto, 1965, page 45, cat.no.51, reproduced.
Robert Stacey, “The Sensation Produced by (Their Own) Landscape” in Visions of Light and Air, Canadian Impressionism, 1885-1920, Americas Society Art Gallery, New York, 1995, pages 65-66 and page 66, Fig.7 for Lawren Harris’ The Gas Works, 1911-12 (Art Gallery of Ontario), reproduced.
George Infuso, s.l.
Mr. and Mrs. R. MacDonald, Ontario
Private Collection, Ontario
J.E.H. MacDonald, R.C.A., 1873-1932, Art Gallery of Toronto (November 13-December 12, 1965) and The National Gallery of Canada (January 7 - February 6, 1966), cat.no.51.