This photograph shows a square of cloth patterned in red and orange. The abstract motifs stand out through a tangle of twisting lines and shapes.

Jock Macdonald

(Thurso, Scotland, 1897 – Toronto 1960)




Aniline dye on cotton

95.5 x 96.5 cm

Gift of Joyce and Fred Zemans, 2008

National Gallery of Canada, 42514

Photo: National Gallery of Canada

Batik was made using the Indonesian textile design process of the same name. The process consists of applying hot wax to selected areas of a fabric to prevent colour from penetrating during dyeing, and then removing the wax to reveal the pattern created by the dyed and undyed areas. Macdonald likely learned about the technique at the Nusantara Museum, in Delft, on a visit to the Netherlands in 1949. He produced this work one summer when he and the painter Marion Nicoll (1909-1985) were experimenting with spontaneous, or automatic, creation in the batik medium.

Jock Macdonald was a painter, watercolourist, printmaker, illustrator and graphic designer who championed the development of abstract art in Canada. Training and jobs in Scotland and England led him to specialize in textile design. Macdonald immigrated to Vancouver in 1926 and joined the faculty of the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts. In 1947, he moved to Toronto to teach at the Ontario College of Art. During the summers of 1948 and 1949, he refined his style under the guidance of the German-born painter Hans Hofmann (1880-1966). In 1953, he co-founded the abstract art group Painters Eleven.


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