John Roderick Dempster MacKenzie

John Roderick Dempster MacKenzie (1865-1941) was born in London, England. MacKenzie and his family immigrated to Mobile when he was seven-years-old. Upon the death of his mother in 1880, MacKenzie’s father sent him and a sibling to Mobile’s Episcopal Church Home (Wilmer Hall). This community provided scholarship funds for training at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Returning to Mobile, MacKenzie executed portraits, landscapes, and scenes of Mardi Gras activities. He moved to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He then spent 14 years in India. In 1914, he returned to Mobile, where he executed a series of pastel drawings of steel mills.

During his lifetime he was considered one of Alabama’s most important artists. Other Alabama artists, including Doris Alexander, Hannah Elliot, Carrie Hill, Genevieve Southerland, and Eugene Walter, eventually studied with him either at his A School of Art at 200½ Dauphin Street, which he established in 1917, or privately in Birmingham.

During World War I, he executed some propaganda projects for the United States government. Between 1921 and 1926, he did 43 pastels of the Alabama steel industry. Between 1926 and 1931, he did eight murals for the rotunda of the State Capitol in Montgomery depicting episodes from Alabama history. During the Great Depression he executed pastels of Mobile scenes for the Public Works of Art Project. In 1939 he completed a series of pastels chronicling the construction in Mobile of the Bankhead Tunnel.

Mackenzie died in 1941, and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery.

A large painting attributed to MacKenzie was donated to the Museum of Mobile in 2009.

References

  • Ganguly, Anil Baran: Roderick MacKenzie: life sketch (1985).
  • Mobile Museum of Art: John Roderick Dempster MacKenzie (1865-1941): a retrospective (1997).
  • Rikard, Marlene: “Lost Treasure: The Birmingham Steel Series of Artist Roderick D. MacKenzie,” Alabama Review, October 2007.

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