Mary Frances Pratt

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Mary Frances Pratt

1935 - 2018

One of Canada's best known artists, Realist painter Mary Pratt was born in 1935 and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She first took art classes at the Art Centre at the University of New Brunswick, then completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts programme at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick in 1961. While there, she received instruction from well known Realist painter Alex Colville. In 1956 she moved to St. John's Newfoundland, and in 1957 married Realist painter Christopher Pratt. After stints in Glasgow, Scotland, they moved to Salmonier in Newfoundland in 1963.

In 1969, Pratt began to use slides as reference for her images. Her realist works, exquisitely descriptive of everyday objects and scenes of preparing and consuming food, are not just a surface representation, but point to aspects of life that are hidden. Pratt stated, "to me, the surface is the given reality - the thin skin that shapes and holds those objects, which we recognize as symbols. The fact of their place in the order of our lives is what I find most interesting." A sensual delight in light and colour is an important part of her images.

In 1992 Pratt moved to St. John's, Newfoundland, and began to teach at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. After divorcing Christopher Pratt in 2004 she married artist James Rosen in 2006 in St. John's.

Pratt's first solo exhibition was at the Memorial University of Newfoundland Art Gallery in 1967, and since then Pratt has exhibited extensively across Canada and her works are in many museum collections. Notable among her numerous shows are a 1981 retrospective touring show originating at the London Regional Art Gallery, a touring show that originated in 1995 at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton and a 50-year touring retrospective organized by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia that tours from 2013 to 2015.

Pratt has an extensive list of honours - she has been given nine honorary degrees, and in 1996, was named a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 1997, she was awarded the Canadian Molson Prize from the Canada Council. She has served with non-profit boards such as the Canada Council, government committees, and cultural initiatives, and has been the subject of several books.