ArtworksJ.E.H. MacDonaldPasture Elm, Thornhill , 1931 (5 August)1873-1932Sold
Inscriptionssigned, 'J.E.H. MacDonald' (lower left); dated, 'Aug 5. / 31' (lower right); titled, signed, and dated, 'Pasture Elm. / Thornhill. / J.E.H. MacDonald / Aug. 5. ’31' (verso, upper right); inscribed by Thoreau MacDonald, 'J.M’s writing / Certified by Thoreau MacDonald / Dec. ‘62' (verso, centre right).
Libby's of Toronto, Toronto;
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 15 January 1998
In Pasture Elm, Thornhill, MacDonald drew upon a subject dear to his heart – land that he loved in Thornhill where he lived. He also drew upon a favorite subject – trees – for he loved them, much as Tom Thomson did. He would have had in the back of his mind the place of trees in landscapes he had already painted – primarily Algoma.
As a master designer, he knew better than to try and put everything in a sketch, especially of a large subject, such as the Rocky Mountains which he began to intensely study and paint in 1924. In painting them, he used the base of the mountain and focused on it, and in the distance, perhaps, a peak of another mountain. Through such details, he conveyed a sense of the while.
In this sketch, faced with an overly tall object – the pasture elm – he focused on the trunk of the tree, merely indicating its noble height by indicating parts of the foliage at the top of the sketch. He left the tree itself largely to our imagination, thereby making us part of the whole effect. It is an immensely skillful way of working, hinting rather than stressing, but he makes his point. The huge tree, the perfectly still, warm day, what more can one ask?
If we could choose one among MacDonald's sketches, this might be the one we choose because it so magically describes the old elm.