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As a son of American missionaries, Norwood Hodge MacGilvary was born in Bangkok, Siam. At fourteen, he came to America to be educated at a private boys’ school in Virginia and he graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina. MacGilvary had no art training until after college but was to become known as an artist-philosopher. He studied art and philosophy at the University of California, art at the Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francisco and at the Académie Julian in Paris, where he worked under Jean Paul Laurens. A resident of New York and Providence, he worked as a freelance illustrator for magazines such as Harper’s, Cosmopolitan and Pictorial Review. MacGilvary taught painting at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh from 1921 to 1943, where he was a faculty member in the art department. He is seen as a member of the American Realist and Tonalist movements; his landscapes and figurative painting often contain Symbolist and philosophical elements: In the philosophical paintings, he embraced subjects along the line of evolution, the desire of the human race to survive, the impermanence of individual life, and the problems of future existence. (1)
He exhibited in Paris, New York, Chicago and at the Panama Pacific Exhibition in 1915 where he received a silver medal. MacGilvary was a member of the American Watercolor Society, the Boston Art Club, and the Salmagundi Art Club and his works are to be found in many important collections including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The Associated Artists of Pittsburgh also conferred a prize on his work and shortly after his death, he was honoured by a memorial show at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.
(1) Paul A. Chew, Southwestern Pennsylvania Painters 1800-1945, 27 September 1981 – November 29, The Westmoreland Museum of Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 1981, page 92