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Lady Agnes Macdonald and her Watercolours

Watercolour painting of part of a tall building from the bottom of which a chute of water gushes into a waterway. A wooden structure is erected next to the building and shrubs grow next to the structure.

“The mill at Rivière-du-Loup” by Lady Agnes Macdonald, 1880


Lady Agnes Macdonald, like many other ladies of means of her generation, took up the genteel pastime of painting in watercolour.

A watercolour image of a gentle shoreline scene, with a little water lifting upon a crescent-shaped beach, some vegetation in the foreground and what might be flowers visible amongst the vegetation in the background.

“At the beach”, by Lady Agnes Macdonald, September 18, 1880


All her known surviving watercolours were painted in the summer of 1880.

Watercolour painting of a river scene depicting part of a wooden building, a pathway, rocky outcrops, a wooden fence, and the Saint Lawrence River in the distance.

“From the boat house” by Lady Agnes Macdonald, 1880


On foot, Lady Agnes did not venture far from their villa, often taking the uneven path down to the river with her paintbox, brushes and easel.

Her paintings give us a sense of time and place in the scenes she chose to paint.

A pale watercolour of a riverside scene, with a rocky outcrop, gentle waves, with hills and islands in the distance, under a semi-clouded sky.

“From the beach, looking south west, Pilgrim Island” by Lady Agnes Macdonald, 1880


She clearly appreciated and enjoyed the natural landscapes on the south shore.

Watercolour painting of a curved sandy beach, with a wooden fence along the back edge and a house in the middle distance, with a clouded sky looming over.

“Near the Bathing Place” by Lady Agnes Macdonald, 1880


She found gratification painting the peaceful scenes she came upon.

A pale watercolour of a river view, with a dirt road in the foreground, some sailboats on the water, an island and the far shore in the distance, under a colourless sky.

“From my camp at Kamouraska, August 31, 1880” by Lady Agnes Macdonald


Lady Agnes’s watercolours also tell us that she spent some time fishing in Kamouraska at the end of August 1880.

Watercolour of fields divided by fences and treelines, with a wide river and mountains in the distance.

“From the summer house at Rookwood” by Lady Agnes Macdonald, 1880


She also took her painting supplies over her neighbours’ cottage, while Miss Reynolds was spending time at Villa Les Rochers taking care of young Mary Macdonald.

Watercolour painting of an inlet on a river, with an anchored small sailboat near the shoreline and a large rocky outcrop behind it.

“Water Lily at Anchor” by Lady Agnes Macdonald, 1880


Many of the same riverside scenes that Lady Agnes Macdonald painted in 1880 remain recognizable over the years, looking towards Rivière-du-Loup or looking towards Notre-Dame-du-Portage.

Colour photograph of a riverside scene at Rivière-du-Loup with a wooden fence in the foreground, rocks, sand, and shrubs as well as the river and some clouds in the sky.

Shoreline at St. Patrick, photographed by Winnifred Molson, 1956


Colour photograph of agricultural fields leading down to the Saint Lawrence River near Rivière-du-Loup, at the edge of which is a line of trees and two small wooden buildings.

St. Patrick view, photographed by Winnifred Molson, 1956


A vibrant watercolour depicting a riverside view looking lengthwise instead of across the river, a rocky outcropping looming over a sandy beach where a canoe is tethered. There are trees in the distance, and undulating clouds.

“At the Bathing Place”, by Lady Agnes Macdonald, 1880.


A colour photo of a beach scene, though no water is visible: to the left is a rocky escarpment studded with spruce and pine trees, at the centre, are large squarish boulders that appear to have been deposited by glacial action. To the front and right, flat sand with dried deposits of seaweed, sticks and shells that would suggest that the setting is tidal. Bright sky above.

“The Bathing Place” below Les Rochers today, photograph by Karen Molson 2017