Lot # 013
Spring 2013 - 1st Session Live auction

Jack Hamilton Bush
ARCA CGP CSGA CSPWC OSA P11 1909 - 1977 Canadian

Snow Day
acrylic polymer emulsion on canvas December 1972 ~ 1973
on verso signed, titled, dated Dec. 1972 and inscribed "acrylic polymer W.B."
80 3/4 x 65 1/4 in  205.1 x 165.7cm

David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto
Coopers & Lybrand (PricewaterhouseCoopers)
Private Collection, Alberta

Jack Bush Diary for 1972 and 1973, Jack Bush Fonds, E.P. Taylor Research Library & Archives, Art Gallery of Ontario

The arc of Jack Bush’s career, from the early days of oil sketches en plein air to his international success in New York and London with large-scale canvases, is paradigmatic of the evolution of Canadian painting from European approaches to modernist motives. Bush’s bold but articulate use of colour in the 1960s fostered a steady demand for his work by dealers and collectors. By the 1970s, Bush was recognized as a world-class painter, worthy enough to open the new contemporary wing at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1972 with a solo show of his work. It was a coup – a Canadian artist opening a newly built section of the MFA in Boston purposed to celebrate the best in contemporary art. Just ten years previously, Bush had landed the first of his solo exhibitions in New York City. The show opened on April 17, 1962 at the Robert Elkon Gallery on Madison Avenue with peers such as Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland, Robert Murray and Clement Greenberg in attendance. Bush startled gallery-goers with a selection of his 1961 “thrust” paintings. Forceful, solitary bars of colour or, in some cases, unpainted shafts of canvas, culminated in a burst of colour and expressive form. They are undeniably sexy. The rigid bars of the “thrust” paintings are born again in the artist’s work of the early 1970s such as Snow Day, but this time with daring new grounds.
Bush kept a daily diary, and each day opened with a note about the weather. The winter of 1972 / 1973 was notably snowy. Snow Day is signed by the artist on the back of the canvas with a date of December 1972. The artist also kept very careful records of all of his paintings in three neat notebooks, complete with small thumbnail sketches for nearly all of the abstract paintings. His note for Snow Day bears an extended date: “Dec. 1972 – Mar. 1973”. The thumbnail sketch also reveals that the painting had only five horizontal bars in its original inception. Considering the artist’s extensive journaling habits, his remarkably comprehensive record books and his 41 years spent as a leading commercial illustrator, it is not a stretch to say that Bush had an editorial eye. As with many of the artist’s paintings, Snow Day was decidedly improved upon.
The diaries reveal that the artist, in his words, began “editing” a number of his paintings in March 1973. Bush regularly reviewed his paintings with peers, his wife Mabel and Clement Greenberg. Greenberg visited with Bush in the first few days of March. Discussing what worked and did not work, what surprised and what nagged, was typical studio talk. Like drafts for written work, clarity was gained with the participation of another’s eye, and perspective was gained with the passage of time. After discussing possible alterations to be made on a number of paintings made over the winter, Bush noted that Greenberg remarked, “You’re going to have fun playing around with those - I envy you.” Bush’s sensitivity to the life of a painting, how it might read differently from one day to the next, is what makes paintings like Snow Day feel so very fresh even today. His work is ever contemporary.
We thank Dr. Sarah Stanners for contributing the above essay. Stanners is an independent art historian currently directing the Jack Bush catalogue raisonné project. She is also a guest curator with the National Gallery of Canada where she is co-curating a major Bush retrospective exhibition with the Gallery’s director, Marc Mayer, which is scheduled to be on view from October 31, 2014 to January 15, 2015. Stanners regularly teaches Canadian art history at the university level and is now affiliated with the Department of Art at the University of Toronto.
Snow Day will be included in the forthcoming Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné. For more information on this project, or to submit details of a painting, please go to www.jackbush.org

Estimate: $90,000 ~ $120,000 CAD  
Sold for: $210,600 CAD (including Buyer's Premium)

All prices are in Canadian Dollars.

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