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Evan Macdonald

A Painter’s Life

Flora Macdonald Spencer; Judith Nasby, editor

Paper 144 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-55458-048-4

Release Date: May 2008

Online discount: 25%

$36.99  $27.74


Finalist for the 2008 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award in the Art Category

A master draughtsman, artist Evan Macdonald had extraordinary facility as a painter, printmaker, and book illustrator. Born in Guelph, Ontario, in 1905, to one of the city’s founding Scottish families, Macdonald was a young contemporary of the Group of Seven and pursued his practice in Canada during the Great Depression. He joined the Second World War as an artist-soldier. After the war, Macdonald became a professional portraitist, fulfilling commissions from heads of government, industry, and academia. His paintings chronicling the destruction of Guelph’s historical buildings in the 1950s and 60s both celebrate industrial progress and lament the loss of nineteenth-century craftsmanship.

Evan Macdonald: A Painter’s Life is a richly illustrated chronicle of Macdonald’s life and work from the perspective of the artist’s daughter, Flora Macdonald Spencer, whose insightful essay creates a lasting image of a great Canadian artist. The book offers a unique perspective on the history of Guelph as well as commentary on one of the city’s founding families, their Scottish ancestry, and the establishment and evolution of twentieth-century social and cultural ideals.

Co-published with the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre

Raised in Guelph, Ontario, Flora Macdonald Spencer taught art for thirteen years at Hillfield-Strathallan College (Hamilton). Now retired, she works in pastel and teaches drawing.

Editor Judith Nasby is the director of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, where she oversees one of the most comprehensive sculpture parks in Canada and a permanent art collection of over 4,000 works. She is also an adjunct professor in the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph.


A Painter’s Life is a shot in the arm for any creative soul who feels blocked or uninspired. It’s for those of us who, when staring at a blank screen or pristine canvas, point to our family or job as an excuse for our poor productivity. It’s easy to relate to Evan Macdonald in this book. He too railed against the limitations of business and domestic life. The difference is that, instead of holding out for the perfect time and place to create, he took every opportunity to develop his craft. He also opened his mind to depicting the people and places that surrounded him. The result is a range of unpretentious works that reveal the artist’s skilled hand and fresh vision. The story of Evan Macdonald reminds us to enjoy making art. And what’s possible if just open your eyes, focus on what interests you, and get to work.”

— Deb Davis, painter and writer (Guelph, Ontario)

“There is an intimacy, a quiet fierceness in a daughter’s watching of her father. A looking upto that escapes language, a stirring in and out of light and dark that gathers among silver mines, walks the edges of Hope Bay, and traces architectural ruins of memory and return. With narratives sketches, Flora Macdonald Spencer revisits and awakens the temporal spaces of Evan Macdonald, to tell what has not been told of her father’s lie, a painter’s life.”

— Sorouja Moll, writer, playwright and MA candidate, School of English & Theatre Studies, University of Guelph, Ontario

“The study reflects the commitment of both the art gallery and the university press to significant regional achievement in the arts.... Intimate, personal and affectionate.”

— Robert Reid, Guelph Mercury

Evan Macdonald

Table of Contents

Related interest


Waterloo Region

Related links

Macdonald Stewart Art Centre

Curling on Speed River by Evan Macdonald from The Curling History Blog

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