Jack Hamilton Bush
ARCA CGP CSGA CSPWC OSA P11
1909 - 1977
Stumblin' All Around
acrylic polymer on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated July 1976 and inscribed "Toronto" and "acrylic polymer W.B."
79 1/4 x 19 1/2 in 201.3 x 49.5 cm
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
Sold for: $277,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Collection of the Artist
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto
An Important Estate, Toronto
Jack Bush’s Stumblin’ All Around is as fun as its title suggests. Like quick dance steps, bright colours bop up and down this tall canvas. There is no direct account from Bush regarding the source for his title, but it is most likely related to the song “Stumbling,” recorded by the popular American vaudeville singer Billy Murray. Bush would have been 11 years old at the time of its first recording, in 1922. The ditty is upbeat, funny and fast paced. The core lyrics describe a man who takes his girlfriend to a dance despite the fact that he cannot dance:
Took my gal to a dance
At the armory
Music played, dancers swayed
Then we joined the crowd
I can't dance, took a chance
And right then we started
Stumbling all around, stumbling all around
Stumbling all around so funny
Stumbling here and there, stumbling everywhere
And I must declare, I stepped right on her toes
The song held its appeal for years, greatly due to its comedic value. In fact, it became a central part of the plot of an episode of the TV sitcom The Odd Couple. The episode, titled “A Different Drummer,” guest starred Monty Hall, who sang “Stumbling” with a full band and many laughs from the audience. Since the episode aired in 1974, Bush might have seen the show when it debuted, or as a rerun, closer to the date when he created this canvas. Bush painted Stumblin’ All Around in July 1976, at a time when he admitted in his diary that TV was more important than ever to him. He wrote on July 16, 1976: “TV seems the only thing that keeps my mind occupied – the art world scares the hell out of me.” Bush enjoyed watching TV at the end of each night, and even kept the family’s first colour TV in his studio at home, along with a record player and an upright piano.
The summer of 1976 was a busy time for Bush. The final touches on the catalogue for his first retrospective exhibition in Canada were underway, in time for the launch of the touring exhibition in September 1976. Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Jack Bush: A Retrospective would be the last major public exhibition during his lifetime. Soon after the show opened in Edmonton, the artist died of a heart attack, on January 24, 1977.
Bush had been diagnosed with angina in 1969, and that difficult period in his life coincided with some of the most playful canvases of his entire career. His Spasm series of paintings have bright, light-coloured grounds with opaque darts of colour diving down each canvas like birds. Stumblin’ All Around has the same sense of gaiety as these canvases. Applied with a sponge loaded with fresh salmon pink and white paint, the ground is carefree, and equal in tenor to the merry strokes of yellows, greens, red, blues, hot pink and off-white that all somehow play beautifully together. In the face of his own struggles with health, painting was positively cathartic for him, and the results are equally so for all those who enjoy his paintings years later.
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. The deadline for new submissions or updates to the first print edition of the catalogue raisonné is December 31, 2020.
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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