Canadian artist James Edward Hervey MacDonald was a founding member of the Group of Seven and was instrumental, along with Lawren Harris, in forming and holding the group together. The seed for the Group was sown in 1913 when MacDonald, along with Harris, took a trip to New York and saw an exhibition of Scandinavian Impressionist art, which depicted the Northern European landscape in a way that the pair was sympathetic to.
In 1918, MacDonald and Harris, along with Frank (Franz) Johnston took the first of the now famous box-car painting trips to Algoma. It was here that the various members of the soon to be formed group found their greatest inspiration. A. Y. Jackson once remarked that “I always think of Algoma as MacDonald country. He was awed by the landscape and he got the feel of it in his paintings.”
MacDonald had accepted a teaching position at the Ontario College of Art, and the group had officially been together for two years by the time ‘Mist Fantasy’ was painted in 1922. In it, MacDonald portrays the quiet majesty of Algoma, with swirls of mist rising from the landscape, encroached upon only by a pair of canoes. Exhibited in 1922 at the annual exhibit of the Royal Canadian Academy as well as the Group of Seven exhibit at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario), ‘Mist Fantasy’ has been widely exhibited at major museums in Canada and the U.S. as well as in England, at London’s Tate Gallery. It is to be viewed as an important, mature painting for the artist and the nation. ‘Mist Fantasy’ was also issued as a 15 cent stamp on 8 June 1973, to commemorate J.E.H. MacDonald’s 100th birthday.
Following MacDonald’s death, retrospective shows were held of his work, notably at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1933 and 1965, the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 1957, and at the National Gallery of Canada in 1966. His works are featured prominently in the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Winnipeg and numerous other major public collections.