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LOT 014

Jack Hamilton Bush
1909 - 1977

Red Vision
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1958 and on verso signed, titled, dated and inscribed "oil" / "Toronto" / "Top"
39 5/8 x 47 3/4 in 100.6 x 121.3 cm

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000

Sold for: $109,250

Preview at:

Collection of the Artist
Estate of Jack Bush
Private Collection, Ontario

Diary (1958), Jack Bush fonds, E.P. Taylor Research Library and Archives, Art Gallery of Ontario
76th Annual Spring Exhibition, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1959, catalogue #4, unpaginated
Terry Fenton, Jack Bush: A Retrospective, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1976, reproduced and listed, unpaginated
Henry Lehmann, "Silent Entertainment," The Montreal Star, April 2, 1977
Pierre Pelletier, "Hommage à Jack Bush," Le Droit, Ottawa, May 21, 1977, illustrated page 19
David Burnett, "The Art of Jack Bush: Taking 'Another' Look," The Ottawa Journal, June 4, 1977, page D67
Murray Battle, director, Jack Bush (film), 1979
Jack Bush: Selected Paintings and Works on Paper, 1938 - 1976, Grace Borgenicht Gallery, 1994, unpaginated

Park Gallery, Toronto, Jack Bush, 1959, catalogue #21
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 76th Annual Spring Exhibition, 1959, catalogue #4
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Jack Bush: A Retrospective, September 17 - October 24, 1976, traveling in 1976 - 1977 to the Vancouver Art Gallery; Edmonton Art Gallery; Musée d'art contemporain, Montreal; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, catalogue #2
Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York, Jack Bush: Selected Paintings and Works on Paper, 1938 - 1976, 1994

Red Vision is a high-profile painting that represents a pivotal transition in Jack Bush’s late Painters Eleven years and his maturation as a painter generally. This 1958 oil on canvas was immediately celebrated in two exhibitions in 1959: Jack Bush, a solo show at Toronto’s Park Gallery, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ 76th Annual Spring Exhibition, where it was the one and only painting representing the artist, alongside works from other notable Canadian artists such as Jacques de Tonnancour, Betty Goodwin and André Biéler, to name a few. Most significantly, Red Vision was featured in the artist’s major retrospective exhibition in 1976, which was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and toured across the nation.
The retrospective installation at the AGO was documented in the National Film Board of Canada’s film on the artist – Jack Bush – from 1979. The director, Murray Battle, respectfully captured the language of formalism by recording the observations of Bush and the critic Clement Greenberg while they walked through the galleries. Red Vision overlooks one of their conversations as the camera takes a wide, panning shot of the exhibition; Greenberg remarks, “It’s like training – it’s like an exercise. You’re bringing the colours together in terms of dark and light, not in terms of hue…” No doubt a similar kind of conversation happened when the artist first met Greenberg nearly 20 years before.
In 1957, Greenberg visited Bush’s studio and recommended that Bush drop the use of black in his paintings. One year later, a painting such as Red Vision appears to be doing just that – letting go of the anchor. The comparison between Bush’s Red Vision and Idea of the Good, which was produced just one week previous, makes a compelling argument for the dramatic difference between a painting that employs black and one that does not.
Bold, gestural paintings using pots of black paint were common in the Abstract Expressionist work of the 1950s; artists like Franz Kline and Adolph Gottlieb favoured splashy compositions using black against white grounds. But as so many young artists aspired to reach their heights, Greenberg observed a kind of pastiche appearing in the next wave of painters and advised Bush to get rid of such “hot licks.” While Bush did take the advice to heart, his paintings from his Painters Eleven days are still much closer to Abstract Expressionism than his later Colour Field style paintings, and Red Vision stands as one of the last great testaments to that important expressionistic moment in his career. As David Burnett observed upon reviewing the artist’s first retrospective, “[With] Red Vision (1958), [Bush] then ‘tightened up’ and moved in the direction of Motherwell’s big gesture.”
As Bush began to favour robust colour over dramatic gestures in his painting practice, he also began to pay more attention to his own dreams for inspiration. Within only a few days of painting Red Vision, the artist’s diary reveals that he was reading Dr. James Arthur Hadfield’s book on dreams (Dreams and Nightmares, 1954). Since the word “vision” is synonymous with a kind of imagery of the mind, it is certainly possible that Red Vision describes a dream. Like a dream, abstract art may recall impactful realities by communicating only certain elements in a wholly unreal way. While there is never a straight one-to-one relationship between real life and a vision, a dream often shows us more: the emotion, sensation and subconscious meaning of our feelings, all in full colour.
We thank Dr. Sarah Stanners for contributing the above essay. Dr. Stanners brought the definitive Jack Bush retrospective to fruition with Marc Mayer at the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta (2014 - 2015). She launched Jack Bush: In Studio (2016) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, where she served as Chief Curator from 2015 to 2018, overseeing 27 exhibitions and 8 publications on Canadian art. Dr. Stanners is now director of the Jack Bush Catalogue Raisonné and holds a status-only appointment as assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Department of History of Art.
This work will be included in Sarah Stanners’s forthcoming Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné.

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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