Lot # 019
Jack Hamilton Bush
ARCA CGP CSGA CSPWC OSA P11 1909 - 1977 Canadian
acrylic on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated July 1973 and inscribed "Toronto"
79 x 47 1/2 in 200.6 x 120.6cm
André Emmerich Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Toronto
Roald Nasgaard, Abstract Painting in Canada, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2007, page 120
Jack Bush was arguably the best-known Canadian painter of the 1960s and 1970s. Central to the group Painters Eleven in the 1950s and its focus on abstraction, he pulled gradually away from what he came to see as the confines of traditional Anglo-Canadian art. Bush became a highly celebrated innovator in abstract painting, praised and promoted most famously by the influential New York art critic Clement Greenberg, who visited Bush's studio in Toronto in 1957. Like many prominent Canadian painters, Bush also had a career as a commercial artist. This he suspended only in 1968 after many achievements, including his first solo exhibit in New York City in 1962, participation in Greenberg's landmark Post-Painterly Abstraction exhibition in the USA in 1964, and representing Canada at the Bienal de São Paulo in 1967.
The qualities that so many revere in Bush's painting are on full display in Bluebird. Against a textured, rolled-on ground of brownish-grey pigment stand four totemic forms, each in a different vibrant hue. Bush's ability with colour remains unique, however much he was inspired by old masters such as Henri Matisse and Joan Miró, or by contemporaries Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis. His colour choices are unusual and memorable. Bush was equally concerned with form; typical of his seemingly spontaneous compositions, the shapes in this painting remain dynamic, like music. The highly varied surface has three visible planes - the canvas on the left exposed at the edges, the loosely applied ground on which the forms play and the four shapes themselves. As in a scale, there is a clear movement upwards from the green figure at the bottom, to the simple but immediately recognizable bird's silhouette that gives the canvas its name, to a yellow and then a red circle.
Bluebird was painted with acrylic pigment. While there was nothing unusual about this medium by the 1970s, it is important to recall that Bush was early in its adoption. He was using acrylic paints by 1966, not least because his friend, the American painter Louis, died of lung cancer in 1962; many attributed his illness to fumes in the studio. Because they can be diluted and cleaned with water rather than turpentine, acrylics are much safer than oils. Acrylics lend themselves to dilution, to the use of thin washes. An accomplished watercolourist, Bush adapted readily to such techniques and explored them fruitfully on a large scale.
Despite his affinity to progressive American painting in the 1960s and 1970s, Bush was never a doctrinaire abstractionist or one to adhere to a program. He himself noted that in group exhibitions his work always looked different - it had personality. He stated, "There it was: not like everybody else's. The difference was Bush, and I just couldn't get rid of it...fortunately." In the 1970s generally, as in Bluebird, he freely combined abstract motifs with figuration. He moved from theme to theme, sometimes painting several works in one mode, but then changing his motifs. Here, too, he was inspired by great abstract artists who avoided "pure" abstraction, such as Paul Klee, Matisse and Miró. In concert with these predecessors - and in contrast to many of his American fellow travelers in abstraction - Bush's painting is, above all, playful. This quality we see in his whimsical inclusion of the bird form in this painting.
We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto, for contributing the above essay.
S'est vendu pour: $163,800.00 CAN (prime d'achat incluse)
Estimation: 80,000 $ ~ 100,000 $ CAN
Exposé à: Heffel Fine Art Inc. Toronto