Born in Ballarat, Macqueen served with the A.I.F. in France in World War I, then studied and exhibited in England. In the 1920s he became a farmer in the Darling Downs district in Queensland, painting in his spare time, often in collaboration with his wife, Olive Crane.

Macqueen was one of the first Australian watercolourists to paint in a modern style. His semi-abstract landscapes, often based on his photographs, make no claim but that of decoration. His individual and distinctive style showed little change over the period of his work. In this regard, there are possible influences by the British watercolourist 1.5. Cotman and perhaps the Canadian Tom Thompson, whose purpose was to paint the elements of design in landscape in the simplest possible way. In regarding the sky as the key to his pictures, Macqueen would watercolour this first, then gradually work down the rest of the scene, completing each section until he finally did the foreground. Using few colours, he utilised the white of the paper for maximum light.

Edward Hayward purchased many of Macqueen's paintings, often giving them as gifts to friends. CACTUS PLANTS, undated, with its predominant blue and green tones, shows the artist's use of limited colours. Macqueen places a variety of cacti against a background of tall, spindly "lollipop" saplings silhouetted against a bright blue sky, and emerging from a low hedge of eucalypt forest, creating a work of simplistic construction.