In this small work, with its shimmering imagery and its richly painted ground, Jock Macdonald (1897–1960) achieved the perfect realization of his struggle to portray the nature of cosmic reality. Macdonald was a leading pioneer of abstract painting in Canada. Committed to the belief that contemporary art had to be based on “20th-century concepts about nature, space, time and motion,” he became a staunch advocate for contemporary artistic expression. 

 

Art Canada Institue, Jock Macdonald, Etheric Form, 1936 (dated 1934)
Jock Macdonald, Etheric Form, 1936 (dated 1934) 
Oil on panel, 38.1 x 30.5 cm, Vancouver Art Gallery

This lyrical semi-abstract work was created in October 1936, during the flourish of inspiration that overwhelmed the artist during the last few weeks of his stay in Nootka Sound. The painting represents a symbolic statement about the nature of the universe. A fine network of lines fills the surface against the rich purple ground, where a single orb is poised in the balance. Space is compressed. Fascinated by contemporary scientific discoveries, Macdonald wrote in one of his notebooks: “We think of our earth as very solid and we know it is rushing around the sun at the enormous speed of 60,000 miles per hour, but it finds no obstruction in the Ether, there is no retardation of its velocity.”

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