Artwork by Jack Hamilton Bush,  Quarter Moon

Jack Bush
Quarter Moon

gouache on paper
signed and dated 1975 lower right; signed and inscribed “Jack Bush – Toronto”, titled and dated June 1975 on the reverse

29 x 21 ins ( 73.7 x 53.3 cms )

Auction Estimate: $35,000.00$30,000.00 - $35,000.00

Price Realized $41,400.00
Sale date: May 28th 2015

Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York
Evelyn Amis Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Iris Nowell, “Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art”, Vancouver/Toronto, 2010, page 37
Marc Mayer, “Jack Bush: A Double Life”, “Jack Bush”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 2014, page 128
Roald Nasgaard, “Abstract Painting in Canada”, Vancouver/Halifax, 2007, page 124
Jack Bush was certainly a dominant force in the early 1970s, having received significant critical reception with multiple exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Europe. In 1972, he was selected for the opening show of the new contemporary department of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Curator of the exhibition, Kenworth Moffett, notes that the show “establishes Bush as one of our best living painters... He is an artist of real distinction and Boston has scored a coup in mounting the first important U.S. museum show of his work.”

Bush's steady success continued through the mid-70s at which time he was painting complexly coloured pictures on mottled grounds. These grounds, which the artist had returned to in 1969, were now rolled on and then sponged with partially mixed paint. Marc Mayer writes how these prepared grounds “became a textured, granite-like surface upon which he deployed colour.” Mayer furthers that this action “restored space to the roster of pictorial element in his work...[Upon] this ground he coordinated the calligraphic figures that survive his prolonged adventure in the realm of flatness.” The figure/ground connection is wonderfully explored in “Quarter Moon”, a work which underscores Bush's mature style. Here, the chromatic central figure is magnificently drawn with colour.

Indeed, colour holds a playful part in “Quarter Moon”, articulating and energizing Bush's signature “flattened silhouette”. Nasgaard describes how “Bush's figures insist on abstractness even when we know their imagistic sources, as if literary meaning had literally been flattened out of them...” We recognize the shape as a quarter moon, however, it is no longer the “moon” which we are familiar with: the concave side of the figure is a cleaner contour while the convex side reveals feathery, rougher edges. The palette is bold and eccentric, affirming Bush's mastery of colour.

“Quarter Moon” will be included in the forthcoming “Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné”.

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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.