Alice MacKenzie


Other Names: Alice Bierne MacKenzie (née Sawtelle); Alice Beirne Sawtelle MacKenzie;
Alice B. Sawtelle

Alice Bierne MacKenzie (née Sawtelle) was born in Fort Riley, Kansas in 1898. Her father passed away when she was a child, and she and her mother, artist Mary Berkeley Sawtelle (1871-1954), moved to her mother’s hometown of Washington D.C. There, Mary Sawtelle taught art and painted portraits to provide for herself and her daughter.

In addition to painting, Alice Mackenzie would establish herself as a watercolourist and commercial designer. She studied at the Corcoran School (at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, today the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design) in Washington D.C., (c.1919-1921), as well as the Art Students League and the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (today the Parsons School of Art and Design) in New York, after which she was a decorative artist. Later in Canada, her studies included attending the Banff Summer School of Fine Art in 1947, where she was instructed by A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven. In the mid-1920s, Mackenzie provided illustrations for magazines such as Maclean’s.

Alice and Hugh A. Mackenzie were married in 1925. In the early 1930s the couple moved with their three children to London, Ontario when Hugh become the comptroller of Labatt’s Brewery (he would go on to become the company’s general manager and vice-president). Alice Mackenzie kept a studio in the city, where, in the late 1940s, the “London Painting Group,” comprised of her mother and other local artists, would meet.

Mackenzie’s involvement with the arts in London also extended to designing and painting stage sets for the London Little Theatre (now The Grand Theatre) and the London Skating Club, as well murals for the officers’ mess hall at the military base in Aylmer.

Alice Mackenzie’s work was exhibited with the Western Art League after 1946, with the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1948, and in 1950 with the Royal Canadian Academy and at the London Art Gallery and Art Museum (today Museum London). Also in 1950, her work was shown at the Art Gallery of Toronto (today the Art Gallery of Ontario), and a few years later (c.1953) she was part of another show there with the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA) alongside fellow London artists Herb Ariss, John O’Henly, Jim Kemp, and Clare Bice; it was one of several shows she participated in with the OSA.

In 1958 Alice and Hugh A. Mackenzie relocated to Toronto, Ontario.

As Alice Mackenzie had followed in her mother’s footsteps, so succeeding generations followed in hers: one of Alice and Hugh’s sons, Hugh Seaworth Mackenzie (1928-2021) was a well-known and respected artist, as is one of their granddaughters, Landon Mackenzie.

Biography by Samantha Merritt and Luvneet K. Rana


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See also: Mary B. Sawtelle

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