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MacDonald, Margaret F.

MacDonald, Margaret F.
(Margaret MacDonald)


Education: Earned a B.A. and D.Litt.


Office—Department of History of Art, University of Glasgow, 8 University Gardens, Glasgow G12 8QH, Scotland. E-mail[email protected]


University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, former principal research fellow; Center for Whistler Studies, professor of art history. Whistler Etchings Project, project director; also served as curator of art exhibitions.


(Selector and catalog writer) Whistler: The Graphic Work: Amsterdam, Liverpool, London, Venice: An Exhibition Organized by Thos. Agnew & Sons, London, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, in Association with the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1976, Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool, England), 1976.

(Editor) Anna Mathilda McNeill Whistler, Whistler's Mother's Cook Book, Putnam (New York, NY), 1979, 2nd edition, Pomegranate Artbooks (San Francisco, CA), 1995.

(With Andrew McLaren Young and Robin Spencer) The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1980.

(With Richard Dorment and others) James McNeill Whistler, H.N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1995. (With Richard Dorment and others) Whistler: 1834-1903, Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France), 1995.

James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1995.

(With Jan Frederik Heijbroek) Whistler and Holland, Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), 1997.

Palaces in the Night: Whistler in Venice, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.

(Editor) Whistler's Mother: An American Icon, Lund Humphries (Burlington, VT), 2003.

(With Susan Grace Galassi, Aileen Ribeiro, and Patricia de Montfort) Whistler, Women & Fashion, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2003.

Contributor to the e-book The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, 1855-1903; coauthor of the exhibition catalog James Whistler, 2005.


Margaret F. MacDonald is an authority on American artist James McNeill Whistler, as well as his famous mother, Anna Mathilda McNeill Whistler, both of whom have been the subject of her books, catalogs, and the occasional exhibition for which she has served as curator. Over the years, Whistler has suffered a less than overwhelming reputation, with critics accusing him of everything from egotism and laziness to plagiarism and a lack of genuine talent. MacDonald has at times agreed that some of Whistler's pieces are not examples of great art, but others, she maintains, are, and she has defended his work in her writings and her contributions to catalogs. In her James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné, for example, "Mac-Donald's treatment of each work is judicious, and includes enlightening commentaries on the histories of the objects, as well as on their technique," related Carol Troyen in an Art Journal review. The critic continued: "She is willing to acknowledge that certain pictures are not up to Whistler's standards … and to be enthusiastic about others.… These well-considered judgments of quality do not intrude on the scholarly presentation of the objects, and make the entries more lively reading than is customary in catalogues of this kind."

In Palaces in the Night: Whistler in Venice, Mac-Donald explores the artworks that the painter completed during his time in Italy. The scholar compares Whistler to other artists in Venice at the time, his reasons for going to that city, and how he influenced other artists in turn. Anne Koval, writing in Victorian Studies, appreciated MacDonald's inclusion of the artist's letters, "which provide an insight into the artist's unique writing style." Although Koval felt the book could have actually used more evaluation by MacDonald of the artist's works, the critic further reported: "MacDonald's strengths lie in the chapters on pastels and etchings. Her close knowledge of Whistler's work reveals a comprehensive understanding of his working methods. MacDonald's aesthetic appreciation for Whistler's work and her careful attention to detail help to provide an acute visual reading of each work."



Art Journal, winter, 1996, Carol Troyen, review of James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné, p. 99.

Contemporary Review, November, 2003, review of Whistler's Mother: An American Icon, p. 319.

Library Journal, August, 2001, Sandra Rothenberg, review of Palaces in the Night: Whistler in Venice, p. 101; August, 2003, Sandra Rothenberg, review of Whistler, Women & Fashion, p. 77.

Victorian Studies, spring, 2004, Anne Koval, review of Palaces in the Night, p. 524.

Winterthur Portfolio, summer-autumn, 2003, Leslie Reinhardt, review of Whistler, Women & Fashion, p. 143.

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