Lot Sale Results

Jack Hamilton Bush

Jack Hamilton Bush

Jack Hamilton Bush
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 010

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

acrylic on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated 1968 and inscribed "Acrylic Polymer W.B" and "Top"
43 x 24 in  109.2 x 61cm

Galerie Godard Lefort, Montreal
Acquired from the above by the present Important Private Collection, Montreal, then California

"Bush's First One-Man Exhibition Locally," The Montreal Star, February 22, 1969
Diary, Jack Bush fonds at the E.P. Taylor Research Library and Archives, Art Gallery of Ontario

Galerie Godard Lefort, Montreal, Jack Bush, 1969

In 1968, Mira Godard expressed an interest in hosting a Jack Bush exhibition at her Galerie Godard Lefort in Montreal, despite the fact that at the time, the David Mirvish Gallery (DMG) in Toronto exclusively represented the artist across Canada. Godard was not shy about approaching Bush when he made a visit to her gallery in January 1968. According to Bush’s diary: “Mira said, pleadingly, her large beautiful eyes on me ‘Jack, we must get together and plan our show – just you and me!’ Wow. I said ‘I’m David’s artist - Mira, we’ll all have to get together’ ” (artist’s diary, January 24, 1968).

On November 26, 1968, Bush flew to Montreal with Alkis Klonaridis, director of the David Mirvish Gallery, to meet with Godard. Bush recalled in his diary that she was “pushy,” but with this assertiveness Godard did manage to set her preferred February 1969 date for a Jack Bush exhibition at her gallery. Remarkably, it was the artist’s first solo show in Montreal, a city where he had spent part of his childhood, high-school years and early adulthood.

Ultimately, Godard acquired Bush paintings via DMG. On December 8, 1968, Klonaridis and Bush selected 11 paintings to send to Godard in anticipation of the upcoming solo exhibition. The show opened with a celebratory evening on February 17, 1969 with six of the 11 canvases on display, including So, which the gallery sold to the present owner. National Gallery of Canada curators Dennis Reid and Brydon Smith attended the exhibition opening and purchased Big A for $2,000; the A stood for Alkis. Bush reported that more than half the exhibition sold and, after the show, artist Yves Gaucher arranged a dinner for 20 at a local Chinese restaurant (artist’s diary, February 17, 1969). Godard kept at least one of the paintings for herself; she displayed Bush’s Little Yellow (1968) in her dining room for many years.

Little Yellow and So were both painted in May 1968, and the two paintings are virtually the same size: 44 x 24 and 43 x 24 inches, respectively. Little Yellow was a sure indication that the artist was moving more and more towards a style that would later be described as the “fringe” paintings (where one dominant colour takes up most of the composition before the side or bottom terminates in a stack of multiple colours). At the same time, Little Yellow remains close to So in its visual foolery, which puts the canvas surface in cahoots with the painted composition; that is, the painting includes the canvas as a part of the picture. While the white rectangle at the right of Little Yellow mimics a section of blank canvas (the National Gallery of Canada’s director, Marc Mayer, once affectionately likened it to a missing tooth), Bush takes the process even further in So by actually leaving sections of the canvas unpainted. With the impossibly thin application of colour next to sections of untouched canvas, the unity of colour and substrate is asserted on one plane.

Like a textbook example of Colour Field ethos, So respects the most inherent characteristic of a painting – its flatness. And yet, while Bush’s painting technique aims to be as flat as possible, the composition mischievously implies a sense of lift or a rift rising between one side and the other. Appearing like a fault line across fields of abstraction, the continuous schism between one third and the other two thirds of the composition suggests that there are two planes at work, and even evokes a sense of movement as the eye runs up and down this curious, unmarked line. Although the painting remains utterly flat, the visual effect is like seeing one painted canvas lean against another.

After 1966, Bush used tape to demarcate the sections of colour as he painted - but he also let colour bleed a little. He was okay with a wavering line or a stray spot of paint. If his stripes were hinged on a colour theory or achievement of virtuosity then, as they say, anyone could do it. Bush wanted to capture a feeling with his paintings. With this in mind, could So be aiming to express the feeling of the fifth note in a musical scale? Or is it capturing the feeling of moving on, or changing subjects when we say “So…”? It is hard to tell, or maybe that is the point.

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: $150,000 ~ $250,000 CAD

Sold For: $169,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

Heffel's remains the premier venue to buy and sell important Canadian Art. We continue our tradition of market leadership with record breaking auctions. At Heffel's, you will work with the most experienced team of specialists in the business to help you buy and sell your fine art. Consign with Heffel and we will provide you with the best opportunity to maximize the value of your works.