LOT 015

1909 - 1977

April Growth
acrylic on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated April 1972 and inscribed "Toronto" / "Top" / "Acrylic Polymer W.B."
58 1/4 x 26 3/4 in, 148 x 67.9 cm

Estimate: $150,000 - $200,000 CAD

Sold for: $217,250

Preview at:

Collection of the Artist
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto, April - July 1972
Dr. and Mrs. Hilbert H. DeLawter, Virginia, July 1972
Salander-O'Reilly Galleries Inc., New York
Miriam Shiell Fine Art Ltd., Toronto, January 2003
Private Collection
Miriam Shiell Fine Art Ltd., Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto

Karen Wilkin, Jack Bush, 1984, reproduced page 107

Across five decades of painting, springtime was always Jack Bush’s most productive time of year, and the spring of 1972 was no different. April Growth is one of seven paintings he made in April 1972, most of which relate to nature, including April Rose and Late Sun – April. What separates April Growth from the others is its explicit visual reference to nature.

April Growth features a tall, bright green plant-like figure that stands like an emblem of the vigour of spring. As if in awe of the dominant green, two smaller strokes of colour – blue and pink – are placed vertically at the bottom right-hand side of the canvas. At this point in the artist’s career, his paintings were strictly abstract, and only colours served as referents to the real world, if at all. In the case of April Growth, the colours are fresh and spring-like, but the central figure is specifically shaped like a plant. Bush managed to imbue this picture with a sense of duration and expectation in presenting the delicate and fleeting life of a bud, just before its blossoming. Its bowed and elongated head is reminiscent of an iris bud before it has revealed its petals.

The artist and his wife Mabel were avid gardeners. They worked hard to plant and care for their flower and vegetable beds, and they played hard in their garden too, taking time for rest and relaxation as well as hosting friends and colleagues for light fare in the backyard. The garden provided Bush with unending colour inspirations, and whole series of paintings were born from its visual delights. April Growth is unique in its appearance and does not belong to a certain series or type, but it does reside within a long tradition of the artist’s interest in painting flora.

Bush’s career was thriving when he painted April Growth. He was coming off the high of his first major public exhibition in the United States, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which ended just days before he painted April Growth. Writing for the New York Times, Hilton Kramer pointed out the MFA’s good fortune in securing such an original artist, asserting, “He is indeed a painter of enormous eloquence who has found in the vocabulary of color abstraction the means of articulating a range of feeling all his own.”[1]

Eight years after his review of Bush’s first American museum exhibition, Kramer wrote an article titled “A Garden for the Eye: The Paintings of Jack Bush” for artscanada. He was reviewing a survey exhibition of Bush’s paintings from 1955 to 1976, which was organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1980 and toured throughout the UK. At the Serpentine Gallery in London, his paintings were installed in a space with lookouts to Kensington Gardens. Kramer was impressed by how the paintings looked at home next to nature, writing: “It isn’t every painter whose work can withstand the light from within or the vistas that beckon from without. Yet Bush’s paintings took complete possession of this setting, quite as if they were intended for it.”[2] His conclusion was that Bush’s eccentric imagery was most often related to the life he found in his garden, and he was right.

In an interview with Art Cuthbert for CBC Radio (September 1976), Bush spoke about his process as a painter by comparing it to the spirit of curiosity in gardening, stating, “You want to plant some more plants to see what will come out of them.” [3] The promise in painting is not unlike the pregnancy of spring, which we see so clearly in April Growth – most of our delight stems from wondering what might come out.

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 adjunct 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. Hilton Kramer, “Art Opener in Boston: Jack Bush,” New York Times, February 19, 1972, 26C.

2. Hilton Kramer, “A Garden for the Eye: The Paintings of Jack Bush,” artscanada 37, no. 3, December 1980–January 1981, 12–17.

Estimate: $150,000 - $200,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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