Artwork by Jack Hamilton Bush,  Pink on Red (Thrust)

Jack Bush
Pink on Red (Thrust)

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1961 lower left; signed “Jack Bush - Toronto”, titled and dated on the reverse
79 x 79.25 ins ( 200.7 x 201.3 cms )

Auction Estimate: $225,000.00$175,000.00 - $225,000.00

Price Realized $299,000.00
Sale date: May 29th 2014

Jack Bush Art Estate (1974).
Waddington Galleries, Toronto.
The Collection of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.
Ross Fox, “The Canadian Painters Eleven (1953-1960)”, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, 1994, pages 48-49.
Karen Wilkin, “Jack Bush on Paper: A Selection”, essay, New York, January 2009.
Bush's journey as an artist took him from landscape to colour field painting. Following a well-received Painters Eleven exhibition at Toronto's Park Gallery in 1957, the gallery held solo exhibitions of Bush's artwork every year from 1958-61. The shapes of his late 1950s Painters Eleven period gave way to the magnificent “Thrust” paintings, noted by Ross Fox as “the first major series of Bush's mature phase.” In the “Thrust” works of 1960-61, Bush addresses key spatial and colour concerns thus allowing his unique artistic identity to shine. The characteristic element of the “Thrust” works is a band often resembling a brushstroke that 'thrusts' about two thirds across or down the canvas. Some of these pivotal pictures were exhibited in Bush's premiere solo exhibition in New York, held at the Robert Elkon Gallery in 1962.

Bush began “Pink on Red (Thrust)” on June 7th and then departed on a road trip to the United States, visiting Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo. During this trip, he viewed paintings by artists such as Matisse, Rothko, Cezanne, Pollock and De Kooning and remarked how he had never seen so many masterpieces spanning the past century. Most impressed by Rothko and Matisse, Bush returned to Toronto and to “Pink on Red”, reworking the composition to reflect his recent experience. He completed the painting on June 20th. A drawing in the artist's records reveals how Bush altered the horizontal pink figure from an organic shape to a boxier, more structured form, suggesting the influence of Rothko. “Pink on Red (Thrust)” greatly impresses the viewer with its monumentality and emphatically expressive quality. It is not surprising that these “Thrust” works comprised the artist's first solo exhibition south of the border as they are of a breadth and calibre that contributed greatly to his international acclaim.

“Pink on Red (Thrust)” will be included in the forthcoming “Jack Bush Paintings:A Catalogue Raisonné”. We thank Dr. Sarah Stanners for her assistance in the cataloguing of this painting. Sarah is co-curating a Jack Bush retrospective exhibition to be held at the National Gallery of Canada which is scheduled for November 2014 through February 2015.

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Jack Hamilton Bush
(1909 - 1977) Painters Eleven, Canadian Group of Painters, OSA, ARCA

A founding member of the Painters Eleven group and the subject of major retrospectives at the Art Gallery of Ontario (1976) and the National Gallery of Canada (2014), Jack Bush (born March 20, 1909 in Toronto; died January 24, 1977 in Toronto) was one of Canada’s most influential artists. Among the first Canadian painters of his generation to achieve international success in his lifetime, Bush was a masterful draftsman and colourist whose works are coveted by major institutions and private collectors throughout the world. Born in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto in 1909, Bush spent his childhood in London, Ontario, and Montréal, Québec, where he studied at the Royal Canadian Academy and apprenticed as a commercial artist in his father’s business, Rapid Electro Type Company. After relocating in 1928 to work in the firm’s Toronto offices, his interest in fine art grew through contact with members of the Group of Seven, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Canadian Group of Painters. Working as a commercial artist by day, Bush painted and took night classes at the Ontario College of Art (now the Ontario College of Art and Design University) throughout the 1930s, studying under Frederick Challener, John Alfsen, George Pepper, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Charles Comfort. After forming the commercial design firm Wookey, Bush and Winter in 1942 with partners Leslie Wookey and William Winter, Bush remained engaged in the graphic art world until his retirement in 1968.

Like many of his contemporaries in Toronto, Bush had little exposure to international trends of modernism during his formative years as a painter. For nearly two decades, he drew inspiration for his landscape and figural paintings from works by members of the Ontario Society of Artists and the Canadian Group of Painters. Though he began to incorporate non-representational elements in his work in the late 1940s, Bush’s more focused experimentations with formal abstraction in the early 1950s reveal the conspicuous influence of his eventual encounters with modern artwork in Toronto and New York City. In 1953, Bush joined the newly-founded Toronto artist group Painters Eleven. Through his involvement in the group’s efforts to promote abstract painting in Canada, Bush met the influential New York City art critic Clement Greenberg. Their resulting friendship would influence Bush’s early development as an abstract painter, with Greenberg serving as an occasional mentor to the artist, encouraging him to abandon his Abstract Expressionist style in favour of a brighter, more refined palette and technique. Through his association with Painters Eleven, Bush became closely tied to Colour Field painting and Lyrical Abstraction—two movements that had evolved from Abstract Expressionism. After the group disbanded in 1959, Bush’s distinguished career was marked by numerous achievements, including the opportunity to represent Canada at the São Paulo Art Biennial in 1967, after which his art found considerable commercial success in the United States (Bush had already been showing his work in New York City since 1962). In 1963, Hugo McPherson in his review of Bush’s showing at the Gallery Moos, Toronto, linked Bush with Matisse as follows, “...he reminds us of the classical joy and simplicity of the later Matisse. This is his richest vein. His comments on France, Italy, and Spain, and his observations titled ‘Red on Pink’ and ‘Growing Plant’ are at once spare and bright and probing.”

In 1972, Bush was the subject of the inaugural survey exhibition in the modern wing of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Four years later, the Art Gallery of Ontario organized a major touring retrospective of his work. Bush as a member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, 1942 (former President); Ontario Society of Artists (former Vice-President) 1943; Associate Royal Canadian Academician, 1946; Canadian Group of Painters’, 1948, and the Art Directors’ Club of Toronto. In 2014, the National Gallery of Canada hosted a major retrospective exhibition of Jack Bush’s work. A comprehensive catalogue raisonné of Bush’s work is set to be released in the coming years.

Jack Bush died at the age of 68 in 1977, one year after he received the honour of Officer of the Order of Canada.