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LOT 043

Christopher Pratt
1935 -

The Trunk
oil on board
signed and dated 1980 and on verso signed, titled and dated October 1979 - October 1980
36 1/2 x 42 in 92.7 x 106.7 cm

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000

Preview at:

Marlborough-Godard, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto

Ann Johnston, "A Brooding Vision," Maclean's, September 21, 1981, https://archive.macleans.ca/article/1981/9/21/a-brooding-vision#!&pid=36, accessed June 12, 2019
David P. Silcox and Meriké Weiler, Christopher Pratt, 1982, page 22, reproduced page 166
Joyce Zemans, Christopher Pratt, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1986, page 28, reproduced page 29 and listed page 92
Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Christopher Pratt: All My Own Work, National Gallery of Canada, 2005, page 94, reproduced page 61
Tom Smart, Christopher Pratt: Six Decades, Art Gallery of Sudbury, 2013, page 72, reproduced page 73

Vancouver Art Gallery, Christopher Pratt, November 23, 1985 - January 26, 1986, traveling in 1986 to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Memorial University Gallery, St. John's; and Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax

Christopher Pratt was born in Newfoundland, and he was formed by two educational experiences. In 1953 he went to Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, entering into pre-med. However, the university had a dynamic art school, and three core teachers—Alex Colville, Ted Pulford and Lawren P. Harris—were generating excitement with their espousal of realism. Pratt monitored art classes there before formally entering the faculty of art. He cites Harris rather than Colville as an influence, and he found inspiration in the work of Canadian artists Jean Paul Lemieux and LeMoine FitzGerald and American artist Edward Hopper. In 1957 he attended the Glasgow School of Art, where he received fine training in design and the technical aspects of drawing and painting.

Pratt has lived and worked nearly all his life in Newfoundland, in the village of St. Catherine’s at Salmonier, on the Avalon Peninsula. Where he lives is highly significant to him and informs his art. Pratt likes the fact that so much of the country is open and you can see for great distances, something he dwells on in his landscapes.

His interiors are characteristically stark and contained. Josée Drouin-Brisebois related that, when asked about his interiors, Pratt stated: “I don’t find them empty. The spaces aren’t empty because I am there...” Pratt also related this to his childhood - there were not a lot of furnishings in his family’s house, and he remembers the rooms primarily as spaces. What truly interests him in his interiors is, in his words, “the sense of space itself, the enclosure. It became a private space...”

The Trunk is an extraordinary and important work by Pratt. It is one of a three-part series, along with Bed and Blind, Dresser and Dark Window - a trilogy that is about “the window as an altarpiece.” Joyce Zemans wrote: “Within Pratt’s oneiric house stand the chests and trunks of memory. Images of secrecy, they connect us with the daydreams of intimacy. By the time he painted Young Girl with Sea Shells in 1965, Pratt had discovered that no detailed description can adequately convey these daydreams, so the secrets of his trunks and chests are never revealed.”

In The Trunk, the window is a threshold to the expansive landscape of Newfoundland outside. But more significantly, the window lets light in. The trunk is empty and open, and as it is close to the window, it becomes a receptacle for the light coming through it. What is the presence here, and what is the absence? We see a single object in an unembellished room without furniture, with nothing on the walls. The trunk can symbolize travel or the storage of personal possessions and mementos, but this room and the object in it contain little evidence of the people and their life - therein the absence. The light is the presence - it is the only thing contained by the trunk, which lays open to receive it. It is the enigma contained in the image. Again, consider Pratt’s statement, “The spaces aren’t empty because I am there...”

Rather than defining specifics, Pratt is drawing on a range of experiences from throughout his life, and he seeks generality and ambiguity. Pratt creates a world that is the projection of his mind, of recovered memories of the past, which are not necessarily tied to any actual event. There is often not a feeling of a specific year, time of day or season, because as he stated, “If a painting has no time, it has all time.”

Technically, The Trunk is a finely wrought image. Pratt is a virtuoso of the precise realist technique that he used in the depiction of this scene. But more than that, The Trunk is infused with an atmosphere of reverence. Profoundly calm and aware, this image, so simple and yet so mysterious, embodies the “magic” of Pratt’s realism.

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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