Lot Sale Results

Jack Hamilton Bush

Jack Hamilton Bush

Jack Hamilton Bush
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 057

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

The Trumpet Player
oil on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated 1947 and inscribed C-147 / 5252L / CARLAW
49 x 36 1/4 in  124.5 x 92.1cm

Collection of the Artist
Estate of Jack Bush

Thielsen Gallery, London, Jack Bush: Transition Years, 1940 - 1956, April 26 - May 31, 2013

The Trumpet Player is one of Jack Bush’s rare large-format paintings on canvas from his early years, and it is matchless in terms of conveying a melancholic mood within a painting that relates to music. Exuberance and energy tend to be the feelings conjured by Bush’s musical paintings – both figurative and abstract. Take, for instance, the two small oil panels from 1950 entitled Musician and Wild Bill. These two paintings capture a quick moment in time when the spirit of a performance is palpable. By comparison, the intimate and pensive moment that The Trumpet Player represents is entirely unique. The uncertainty of this musician’s state of mind invites the viewer to ask what happened just before this moment, or what might be in the making? The Trumpet Player is graceful and enduring, due in large part to this pregnant pause.

The man in The Trumpet Player appears to be either onstage between sets or backstage, with his instrument placed on the floor next to him as he rests. The suggestion of a stage and the contrapposto pose of the sitter are reminiscent of an art academy’s emphasis on live model studies. Bush’s sketchbooks show that he attended life-drawing classes for many years, including in the 1940s.

Trumpet players such as Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie were major movers in fostering the popularity of jazz music at the time that this painting was made. Music was important to Bush as a source of inspiration for his art and for personal delight. Bush even took his family to a burlesque show to see Armstrong perform live. Dixieland music was a mainstay, and other great musicians whose recordings were played in the Bush household included Cab Calloway and Teddy Wilson. Playing records helped Bush to set the kind of tone he desired for painting, and he could do so without even leaving his studio.

The avant-garde Zeitgeist of New York was inextricably linked to a jazz scene. Bush always made a point of attending live performances whenever he traveled to New York. It was a scene many artists found compelling, both for the music and for its inventive and impromptu methods. The latter appealed to the scene of free-wielding abstract artists that seemed to simultaneously evolve in New York. With The Trumpet Player, Bush aimed to express the atmosphere of jazz, loose and full of expression, but without sentimentality.

The year 1947 was pivotal for Bush; it was a time when he commenced psychotherapy, and when he first ventured into abstract painting as a result. All the while, through ups and downs, music played. The Trumpet Player represents a shining constant in the life of the artist - that is, his love of jazz. A piano was situated in Jack Bush’s studio at home on Eastview Crescent in North Toronto. He taught himself how to play at a time when YouTube did not exist and, furthermore, he learned in the key of E flat. Bush evidently welcomed a challenge. His wife Mabel also played piano, and they encouraged their three sons to play instruments. Their youngest son, Terry, successfully made music his career.

The Trumpet Player is a special painting that acknowledges the artist’s love of music and, unlike his later abstract paintings inspired by music, it suggests a particular social context; we might imagine a narrative where the artist and his wife enjoyed a session at one of the jazz clubs they attended in the 1940s, especially in New York. Ultimately, The Trumpet Player stands as a wonderful reflection of its time and of the symbiotic relationship of art and music.

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: $40,000 ~ $60,000 CAD

Sold For: $31,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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