Art Under the Influence – Susan A. MacDonald

Susan A. MacDonald (1851-1948), painting: Still Life, 1887, oil on canvas, gift of Nellie Purdy, 1969 (1969.411c)

Susan A. MacDonald (1851-1948)
painting: Still Life, 1887
oil on canvas
Gift of Nellie Purdy, 1969 (1969.411c) © 2019 All Rights Reserved Queens County Heritage

While migrant and itinerant artists had an impact on Queens County, the level of homegrown, professionally trained talent is impressive as well.  Susan A. MacDonald was born 19 February 1851, the daughter of James MacDonald and Sarah Smith, MacDonald’s Corner.  A neighbour of Anthony Flower, Miss MacDonald would have known him in her youth and perhaps got a taste for painting from him.  She lived in Boston for much of her life, unmarried, working as a dressmaker and artist, receiving a Certificate of Achievement at the City of Boston Free Evening Industrial Drawing Schools in May 1884 for the completion of a two year program.  While known for china painting and painting on fabrics, she was also very skilled with oil on canvas.  Her July 1887 still life of a vase with flowers, on a table covered with a beautiful cloth or tapestry illustrates a very accomplished hand.  By 1911 she retired to Queens County to live with her sister Ella, who had married Inglewood Flower, Anthony Flower’s grandson.  A 1947 newspaper article to celebrate her 96th birthday notes she was still winning prizes at the Queens County Fair for her handwork!  Susan A. MacDonald died 26 July 1948 from pneumonia after a bout of measles.

Before conservation treatment

Before conservation treatment

Even though the painting has been part of our collection since 1969, it had never been exhibited because of two fairly large holes in the canvas which distracted from an otherwise outstanding painting.  Courtesy of the Fine Art Conservation program of the province, the holes were repaired and the painting surface cleaned by Adam Karpowicz, so that it could be part of Art Under the Influence and subsequent display.

For more information about Susan MacDonald or to see the painting in person, contact us at


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