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MacColl, D. S.

    Full Name: MacColl, D. S.

    Other Names:

    • D. S. MacColl

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1859

    Date Died: 1948

    Place Born: Glasgow, Scotland, UK

    Place Died: Hampstead, Camden, London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): British (modern), French (culture or style), Impressionist (style), and Modern (style or period)

    Career(s): curators


    Keeper of the Tate, 1907-1911 and Wallace Collection, 1911-1924; early British exponent of French Impressionism. MacColl was the son of the Reverend Dugald MacColl (1826-1882) and Janet Scott Mathieson (MacColl) (d. 1895). He was educated at Glasgow Academy (graduated in 1869), and between 1873 and 1876 at University College School, Hampstead. He entered University College, London in 1876 graduating with his MA in 1881. He joined Lincoln College, Oxford, that year, earning the Newdigate prize for poetry in 1882. Beginning in 1887 he took a study trip for art, travelling in Italy, Greece, Germany, Holland, and Belgium, returning in 1889. He met and reputedly proposed marriage to the early woman classical art scholar Jane Ellen Harrison. In England, MacColl studied art under Frederick Brown at the Westminster School of Art. This landed him a job as art critic to The Spectator between 1890 and 1896. At the 1893 launch of the Goupil Gallery, MacColl regularly exhibited there and at the New English Art Club. He and Harrison produced a collected work on vases, Greek Vase Paintings: a Selection of Examples in 1894. MacColl left criticism for the Spectator in 1896 to become art critic for the Saturday Review. The following year he married Andrée Adèle Désirée Jeanne Zabé (d. 1945). In 1902 MacColl wrote his Nineteenth Century Art, a survey of the painting the century before and one of the first to place French Impressionism in context. He gave Impressionism its first British show at the 1900 Glasgow Exhibition. In 1901 MacColl edited the Architectural Review (until 1905) as representative of the committee for literary direction. MacColl used his position to champion modern art and criticized conservative art acquitision. He publicly accused the executors of the the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey estate of buying mediocre works for the Royal Academy, instead great works the will had demanded. His book, the Administration of the Chantrey Bequest 1904, lead to the acquisition of the work of artists P. Wilson Steer, William Rothenstein, and Muirhead Bone. In 1906 MacColl left the Saturday Review (succeeded by C. H. Collins Baker) to be keeper of the Tate Gallery. At the Tate, MacColl displayed many Turners never before seen, and established the Alfred Stevens room. MacColl received an LLD from Glasgow in 1907. Believing he had contracted tuberculosis, MacColl resigned in 1911 and moved to the warmer climate of Fiesole, Italy. Eventually convinced he did not have the disease, MacColl returned to London to become keeper of the Wallace Collection, succeeding Claude Phillips. MacColl was appointed a trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1917 (until 1927). In 1924 he resigned and was succeeded at the Wallace by Samuel James Camp. He received an honorary DLitt from Oxford in 1925 and was appointed a member of the British School at Rome the same year. Between 1925 and 1929 he was a member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission. MacColl began contributing to the Saturday Review in 1921, moving to the Week-End Review in 1930 when Gerald Barry, its editor, left as well. In 1931 MacColl published Confessions of a Keeper, his collected criticism and in 1940 his collected poetry. He continued to write artists’ biographies, and in 1945, his Life, Work and Setting of Philip Wilson Steer won the James Tait Black memorial prize. He died at his home in Hampstead and was cremated at Golders Green crematorium. MacColl’s early writings praised the modernist artists of French impressionists and the English followers. He frequently criticized the conservatism of the Royal Academy. It was largely through MacColl’s efforts that the National Art Collections Fund was founded in 1903. During the 1920s MacColl lobbied hard for the repair (instead of destruction) of John Rennie’s Waterloo Bridge, which had begun to collapse. Despite his efforts, the bridge was demolished.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Harrison, Jane Ellen. Greek Vase Paintings: a Selection of Examples. London: T. F. Unwin, 1894; Confessions of a Keeper and Other Papers. New York: Macmillan, 1931; [abridged version] What is Art? and Other Papers. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1940.


    MacColl, Dugald S. “A Batch of Memories.” Week-End Review December 20, 1930; Grimsditch, H. B. and Upstone, Robert. “MacColl, Dugald Sutherland (1859-1948).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Borland, Maureen. D. S. MacColl. Harpenden, UK: Lennard Publishing, 1995.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "MacColl, D. S.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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