Tuesday 17 May 2011

Bookplate Designer - J.E.H. MacDonald

J.E.H. MacDonald (1873-1932) is best known to Canadians as a member of the famous Group of Seven landscape artists as well as early patron of the renowned Arts and Letters Club of Toronto.  It is perhaps less well-known that in addition to his oil paintings he also designed a number of bookplates for both institutions as well as individuals.  Here are some of the better known examples of his work:


The Arts and Letters Club bookplate was designed for the club's small library, which also served as the site of the initial meeting and founding of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour.  The ship motif reminds the readers of the sense of discovery that was a common bond in the Canadian arts and crafts movement during the early 20th century.  The second bookplate was designed for library at Hart House, University of Toronto.  Established in 1919 by Vincent Massey, soldier, diplomat, and later Governor-General, and named in honour of his grandfather, the small library at Hart House served a number of students and remains a beautiful place to visit in Toronto.  The bookplate shows an aerial view of Hart House and its inner quadrangle and gardens.

Hart House - University of Toronto

The next bookplate was designed for Dr. James MacCallum, a wealthy Toronto ophthalmologist and art collector who was both friend and patron to the Group of Seven, and who also financially supported the design and construction of the Studio Building in Toronto prior to the First World War.  MacCallum often invited members of the Group of Seven to his cottage located on the shores of Go Home Bay, where MacCallum pursued his love of sailing.  The pictorial in his bookplate is a nod to his cottage and his hobby.  The last bookplate was designed for William Lawson Grant, a member of the well-established Canadian financial family that pioneered chartered public banking in colonial Nova Scotia.  The borders of his bookplate pays homage to this tremendous Canadian family history.

The majority of the bookplates I've been able to attribute to J.E.H. MacDonald are pictorial, though some of his work includes heraldic or armorial accents.  To date I've identified 11 different bookplates designed by this artist, but I suspect there are others that I am simply not yet aware of.  I'm hoping to do a bit more research on his work over the summer when things quiet down a bit.  More to follow.

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