LOT 011

1909 - 1977

Pink Blossoms
gouache on paper
signed and dated May 1971 and on verso signed, titled, dated and inscribed "Top" (with arrow) and "Toronto"
29 3/4 x 22 3/8 in, 75.6 x 56.8 cm

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

Sold for: $31,250

Preview at:

Collection of the Artist, May 1971 - June 29, 1972
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto, June 29 - November 1972
Private Collection, France, 1972

Edmonton Art Gallery, Jack Bush: Works on Paper, June 8 - July 11, 1973, catalogue #4

Pink Blossoms belongs to a series of 12 gouache paintings made by Jack Bush between April and June 1971, all on the theme of spring. Pink Blossoms from this series stands out as one of only two displaying daubs of pink paint to suggest petals. Like nature’s confetti, the pop-and-flutter-down cycle of a cherry tree’s pink blossoms is a celebration of spring’s arrival. With light colours set against a dark ground, this painting expresses the joyous feeling of hope fulfilled: the grey of winter receding as the colours of spring move forward. In the bottom right-hand corner, a zesty yellow stroke appears like a flash, fast and bright as the fleeting blossoms of the forsythia shrub.

Bush did not have to look far to be inspired by nature’s palette. In 1980, art curator Duncan Macmillan spoke with the artist’s widow, Mabel Bush. His short summary of their conversation says it all: “Looking out at the garden of their home in Toronto, she said quite simply ‘that was what he painted.’ ”[1]

Over his many years of living on Eastview Crescent in North Toronto, Bush often preferred to be interviewed in his backyard. The artist and his wife were equals in the garden, both labouring to bring about a beautiful space for rest, entertainment and even interactions with art world types. As Jenny Greenberg recalled in her memoir about being married to the infamous New York art critic Clement Greenberg, it was quite a surprise to find that Bush lived in a suburban family home. It was not the usual environment in which to meet a painter of abstract art, at least not from the point of view of these two New Yorkers. About the garden, Jenny noted, “There was a big backyard that showed years of loving care.”[2]

Some interviewers who were welcomed to chat in the Bush garden include William Townsend, Art Cuthbert and Andrew Hudson. Art critic Hilton Kramer understood his subject when he wrote about the artist for artscanada and titled his article “A Garden for the Eye: The Paintings of Jack Bush.”[3] The garden provided context for Bush’s work, allowing art writers to see exactly what inspired so many of his colours. He also used the setting to explain his methods as a painter, which he likened to cultivating a garden. In an interview with Cuthbert for CBC Radio, in September 1976, the topic of his process came up. Cuthbert inquired if he enjoyed the outcome of his paintings or the making of his paintings best, and Bush answered in terms of gardening:

I think it is the process of doing it...seeing it sort of grow. It’s like flowers in the garden that we were looking at there. You watch for them to grow up and then they come into bloom, and that’s beautiful, and you’re happy enough with that, but then you want to plant some more plants to see what will come out of them. It’s a very selfish sort of thing. Period. I don’t paint the pictures to please anybody.[4]

Without spring’s promise of better days ahead, bearing the winter months might be impossible. What compels a painter to keep on making art is also a sense of realizing something better. Karen Wilkin described this perfectly in her essay for the 2014 Jack Bush retrospective catalogue, where she explained that “Bush repeatedly used his garden as a way of finding impulses to move his work forward, distilling his pleasure in the return of spring, after a grey Ontario winter, into lively, abstract images…”[5] The artist was always moving forward, finding an eternal spring in the joy of painting.

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. Introduction to Jack Bush: Paintings and Drawings, 1955–1976 (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1980), exhibition catalogue, 7.

2. Janice Van Horne, A Complicated Marriage: My Life with Clement Greenberg (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2012), 11.

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

4. Interview published in “Some Thoughts on His Painting by Jack Bush,” Jack Bush: Paintings and Drawings, 19.

5. “Jack Bush: Not What It Seems,” in Marc Daniel Mayer, Karen Wilkin, Adam Welch, and Sarah A. Stanners, Jack Bush (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2014), exhibition catalogue, 86.

This work, along with Jack Bush's Plume Totem and Kenneth Noland's Misty Mount (lots 10 and 12 in this sale), is making its auction debut and returning to Canada from a Canadian collector living abroad in the South of France.

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.