Collection LA.SC104 - Thoreau MacDonald collection

Identity area

Reference code



Thoreau MacDonald collection


  • 1933-1979 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1 portfolio
2 v. of drawings
21 p. of textual records
4 prints

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Thoreau MacDonald (1901–1989) was a Canadian artist, book illustrator and art editor. Son of Harriet Joan Lavis and Group of Seven painter J.E.H. MacDonald, he was born outside Toronto and named for American transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862). Largely self-taught, Thoreau MacDonald worked with his father to develop his artistic ability. His prints and drawings are chiefly in black and white owing to colour blindness. He never married. Thoreau MacDonald’s working career was spent for the most part at the Ryerson Press and Canadian Forum magazine, for which he produced hundreds of drawings and linocuts. In 1933 he became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters. He was especially regarded for his prints and drawings of subjects from nature. In the late 1930s he founded the Woodchuck Press in Thornhill, Ont. to produce bookplates and labels along with illustrated publications. Thoreau MacDonald died in Toronto in 1989. His work is in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Hart House at the University
of Toronto, the McMichael Collection and the National Gallery of Canada.

Archival history

Materials now constituting the Thoreau MacDonald collection were acquired beginning in 1970 when Sybille Pantazzi, librarian of the Art Gallery of Ontario, purchased the page layouts for Maria Chapdelaine.
Edmund Robert Hunter, author of Thoreau MacDonald (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1943), purchased the portfolio of drawings for H.D. Thoreau’s Walden from MacDonald after 1936, lent it to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1988 and donated it in 2007.
Correspondence to Thomas Roche Lee was purchased from him at an unknown date. Other correspondence was transferred from staff of the Art Gallery of Ontario to the Library and Archives.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

AGO credit line: Gift of American Friends of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Inc. through the generosity of Mr. E.R. Hunter, 2008

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Collection consists chiefly of illustrative works by Canadian graphic artist Thoreau MacDonald, including a portfolio of drawings for an unpublished illustrated edition of Henry David Thoreau’s study Walden and a volume of layouts for the novel Maria Chapdelaine by French author Louis Hémon. Collection also includes some correspondence.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


No further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open. Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. Please contact the reference desk for more information.

Conditions governing reproduction

Material in this collection is in the public domain. Permission of the Art Gallery of Ontario is required for publication.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

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Notes area

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Description control area

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Originally prepared by Amy Marshall Furness, 2013.
Uploaded and adapted by Nirvana Chainani, 2019




Accession area

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