LOT 051

1909 - 1977

The Ponderer
oil on board, October 1948
signed and on verso signed, titled, dated 1949 and inscribed "Toronto" / "Jack Bush Estate" / "P-38"
32 1/2 x 27 1/4 in, 82.5 x 69.2 cm

Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000 CAD

Sold for: $18,750

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Collection of the Artist
Estate of the Artist
Private Collection, Toronto

New Paintings by Jack H. Bush, Gavin Henderson Galleries, 1949, listed

Gavin Henderson Galleries, Toronto, New Paintings by Jack H. Bush, October 17 – 29, 1949, catalogue #15

The Ponderer belongs to a critical moment in Jack Bush’s life, when he was more existential than ever before in his art. He was about 40 years old, and the pressures of family life, work life and his own artistic ambitions collided. Painting became a pathway to self-exploration, and eventually solace. It was through therapy, in 1948, that he began to paint freely, without any preconceived plan. He allowed his immediate feelings to take the lead.

Before the end of World War II, Bush typically painted portraits and landscapes, along with his daily work as a commercial artist. Although some figurative work continued through the late 1940s and early ’50s, Bush was increasingly driven to release his inner feelings through painting. His paintings of this time attest to a difficult period in his life, with titles such as Struggling Spirit, The Long Night and even one called Depression, which was later retitled as Man in a Mood.

While Bush inscribed the back of The Ponderer with a date of 1949, his record book of paintings specifies a date of October 1948. In the fall of 1948, Bush made four other paintings that match the tone and stylistic approach of The Ponderer. Some months later, around April 1949, more robed figures appeared in Bush’s paintings, but they are notably more joyful and specific in character than they are psychological (e.g., Flute Player in Sun). Another robed figure by Bush appeared on the cover of the pamphlet for his 1949 exhibition at the Gavin Henderson Galleries, in Toronto, titled New Paintings by Jack H. Bush. The Ponderer was among the exhibition’s 32 paintings, which the gallery described as “provocative.” Six of these paintings are now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The opening of his show at the Gavin Henderson Galleries marked the end of a hiatus, since Bush’s work had not been shown in a solo exhibition for about two years. The remarkably introspective nature of the titles for his paintings on exhibit read like an apologia for a period of soul-searching: titles such as Agony, Transition, Exploration, The Struggle, Tangle, Out of the Woods, Childhood, Strange Land, Rising Spirit, Floating Spirit, and more. The deeply personal honesty of this body of work makes it compelling and, at the same time, the slightly abstract style makes it more universal, so the viewer can connect.

The Ponderer expresses the unique capacity of humans to be contemplative. While the title is explicit, the figure’s action of thinking is also described in his pose, with one hand on his chin and the other on his knee. He is framed by a mountain range and another meditative figure, thus placing the thinker between man and nature, or intellect and instinct. For the artist, The Ponderer represented his own journey into self-reflection and a profoundly meaningful shift in his approach to painting; Bush began to paint from within.

We thank Dr. Sarah Stanners, director of the Jack Bush Catalogue Raisonné, contributor to the Bush retrospective originating at the National Gallery of Canada in 2014, and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Department of Art History, for contributing the above essay.

This work will be included in Sarah Stanners’s forthcoming Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné.

Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.