LOT 029

1909 - 1977

Sway #1
acrylic on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated August 1966 and inscribed "Acrylic polymer"
81 x 104 in, 205.7 x 264.2 cm

Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000 CAD

Sold for: $601,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Acquired directly from the Artist by David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto, 1966
Galerie Agnès Lefort, Montreal, 1968
J. Ron Longstaffe, Vancouver
Sold sale of Canadian Art, Joyner Fine Art, May 17, 1988, lot 93
Acquired from the above by the present Private Collection, Vancouver

Robert Fulford, "Jack Bush: A More Emphatic Joy," Toronto Daily Star, November 19, 1966, page 28
Barrie Hale, "The Bush Exhibition: Sure, Free, Beautiful," Toronto Telegram, November 1966, page 23
Kay Kritzwiser, "Summer Treat for Browsers; Hepworth and Riopelle," Globe and Mail, August 5, 1967, page 15
Sean Rossiter, "Ron Longstaffe: The Private Collector Who’s the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Patron Saint," Canadian Art, Winter 1984, reproduced page 33
Selected View: The Longstaffe Collection, 1959 - 1984, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1985, page 44 and reproduced page 45
"Meet the New Kid on the Auction Block," Globe and Mail, May 14, 1988, reproduced page C15
"Auction Bidders Cool to Big Names," Globe and Mail, May 18, 1988, page C10
" 'Curious' Sale Nets $2.1-Million," Globe and Mail, May 19, 1988, page C6
John Bentley Mays, "$3.2-Million Auction Total at Sotheby's Spring Sale," Globe and Mail, June 2, 1988, page C6

David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto, Jack Bush, 1966
Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Statements: 18 Canadian Artists, November 16 - December 17, 1967, catalogue #1
Vancouver Art Gallery, Selected View: The Longstaffe Collection, 1959 - 1984, January 12 - February 24, 1985, catalogue #14

Sway #1 is a joyful painting. Jack Bush painted one more Sway painting in November 1966, which he called Sway #2, but that work had only one side panel of solid colour and is smaller than the first, Sway #1. Both are striking, but Sway #1 is highly original, and strong in both colour and representation of shape. Compared to the 57 other paintings from 1966, only the Sway canvases exhibit such soft undulating lines. Virtually all of the paintings from this period have stripes or bands of colour, but the lines of colour merely bow, never forming a wave as they do in the two Sway paintings.

It was in March 1966, less than five months before Bush began to paint Sway #1, that he began to use acrylic paint in earnest. Acrylic polymer, as the artist inscribed on the verso of his canvas, would become his exclusive medium for the rest of his life. Sway #1 is therefore among the first run of works in Bush’s commitment to this new medium. While Bush had, in the early 1960s, produced some paintings with a plastic paint known as Magna, its solvent base makes it quite unlike the water-based acrylic paint that he switched to in 1966. The water-based acrylic paint was so new to Bush that he had not yet perfected his technique. The biggest hurdle was getting used to the significantly faster drying time than the oil paints he had primarily used before 1966.

Sway #1 was painted over a period of time between late July and August. The first state of the painting included only the purple panel to the left of the gentle waves of colour. Later, Bush added the grey panel to the right. His diary entries from this time reveal that he was satisfied with the composition, but realized that the tape he used in the process of painting had lifted, allowing the grey paint to bleed into the colours. His corrections to this unintended crossover of grey into the colours are visible upon close examination, but corrections and bleeds between one colour and the next often serve to confirm the authenticity of Bush paintings; he was never too perfect.

What is practically perfect about this painting is the pedigree of its provenance. Sway #1 was once owned by John Ronald Longstaffe, who besides being a highly respected executive, was lauded for his philanthropic spirit and connoisseurship relating to Canadian art. He was, at one point, the youngest president ever to lead the Vancouver Art Gallery, and his generous donations of art to the same institution eventually earned him a gallery hall in his name and a headline in Canadian Art magazine that deemed him the gallery’s “Patron Saint.” Bush was a favourite of this eminent collector who, over the years, owned seven paintings by the artist, three of which he donated to the VAG. Sway #1 took pride of place in Longstaffe’s home. It was such a star in this personal setting that Canadian Art published a photo of Longstaffe in front of Sway #1, and Sean Rossiter noted in his feature article on the connoisseur: “The wall-sized Jack Bush, Sway #1 (1966), seems to flex in the reflected light from the spectacular window next to it.”[1]

The last word on this painting, and probably the best words, should go to Robert Fulford, who described the painting in his review of the November 1966 Jack Bush exhibition held at the David Mirvish Gallery: “Bush audaciously places olive against pale blue against bright green against yellow against pink; and the combination works, as his combinations so often do these days, producing an effect of unrestrained pleasure.”[2]

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 Stanners’s forthcoming Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné.

1. Sean Rossiter, “Ron Longstaffe: The Private Collector Who’s the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Patron Saint,” Canadian Art, Winter 1984, 33.

2. Robert Fulford, “Jack Bush: A More Emphatic Joy,” Toronto Daily Star, November 19, 1966, 28.


J. Ron Longstaffe in front of Sway #1, 1984

Courtesy of Canadian Art

Photo: John Reeves

Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000 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.