Lot Sale Results

Christopher Pratt

Christopher Pratt

Christopher Pratt
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 022

Christopher Pratt
ARCA CSGA OC 1935 - Canadian

House in August
oil on board
signed and dated 1969 and on verso signed, titled, dated February 1969 and inscribed "oil"
17 1/2 x 24 1/2 in  44.5 x 62.2cm

Provenance:
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Ontario

Literature:
David P. Silcox and Meriké Weiler, Christopher Pratt, 1982, pages 76 and 77, reproduced page 77
Joyce Zemans, Christopher Pratt: A Retrospective, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1985, reproduced page 23
Tom Smart, Christopher Pratt: Six Decades, Art Gallery of Sudbury, 2013, reproduced page 38
Christopher Pratt, interview by Valerie Pringle, February 21, 1986, http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2454733682, accessed August 23, 2018

Exhibited:
Vancouver Art Gallery, Christopher Pratt: A Retrospective, 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

This classic Christopher Pratt painting displays both the directness of vision and abiding mystery that make his work so appealing. His image of an outport house in his native and much-beloved Newfoundland depicts vernacular architecture, but its intensity of affect suggests that we might better think of it as a portrait. We see the facade (or face) close up in all its detail and symmetry. The closely observed building and its meticulously painted seaside setting might lead us to think of Pratt’s work as somehow “photographic,” but it is far from that. Instead, he records memories of places, people and structures, radically editing out what he finds extraneous to their essence and changing what he wants to change.

Could any home be this perfect? Each green window shade is lowered to the same level, and the shadows made by the window mullions are identical - they fall on the same pleats in the drawn curtains. The detail to end all details is that the door has no knob. “It would have violated the symmetry,” Pratt reported.

The fuller implications of Pratt’s paintings emerge when we look and think beyond his immaculate surfaces. Again, akin to the portrait of a person, the face of House in August tells much that it does not literally show. Indeed, this work can be seen as a psychological portrait in which what is not visible is its most significant dimension. The shades and curtains are all closed in the same manner. We cannot see into the house, and given the intensity of the August sunlight, it is difficult to imagine that an occupant could see out through the curtains. Not only is the door closed, it cannot be opened from the inside or from our position as viewers. The facade seems to be in comfortable, purposeful and long-term repose.

In its hyper-reality, could the house betoken a peaceful death? Or perhaps its flawlessness suggests a beloved place idealized in memory. While House in August seems to invite some speculations, as viewers we should keep in mind that Pratt himself – interviewed at the time of his 1986 retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario – stated that he creates his paintings to “satisfy some requirement that’s entirely personal.” He claims not to know why people respond as they do to his work. Eloquent in his silence like House in August, however, neither does he preclude our speculations.

We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and author of Alex Colville: The Observer Observed, for contributing the above essay.

Estimate: $80,000 ~ $120,000 CAD

Sold For: $253,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)


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