Born in Cincinnati, Ohio McDonald never ventured far from his birth place throughout his career. McDonald trained at the Cincinnati Art Academy under Frank Duveneck (1848 – 1919), a highly accomplished academic painter. McDonald is best known as a painter and sculptor for Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati where he became head of the architectural department in 1904 until his death in 1931. McDonald was also a member of the Cincinnati Art Club.
Examples of McDonald’s work for Rookwood are held in most major museums throughout the United States, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was not until the 1980’s that McDonald became recognized as an accomplished painter by the art establishment.