Artwork by Jack Hamilton Bush,  Tangled Trees

Jack Bush
Tangled Trees

signed lower right; signed, titled and inscribed “28”, “Toronto” and “Autumn Lake, July 1947” on the reverse; “Jack Bush Heritage Corp.” and “WC-136” labels affixed to reverse of framing
15.5 x 22.75 ins ( 39.4 x 57.8 cms )

Sold for $5,900.00
Sale date: September 24th 2020

Collection of the artist
Theo Waddington Inc., Montreal
Jack Bush Art Estate
Private Collection, Toronto
“Jack Bush: Watercolours”, Theo Waddington Gallery, Montreal, 1980
“Jack Bush, RCA”, Masters Gallery, Calgary, 1982, no. 15
Masters Gallery, “Jack Bush, RCA”, exhibition catalogue, 1982, not paginated, cat. no. 15
Dennis Reid, “Jack Bush: The Development of a Canadian Painter”, in Karen Wilkin (ed.), Jack Bush, Toronto, 1984, pages 8, 13 and 15
As a young man and burgeoning commercial artist, Jack Bush began studying in Montreal where he apprenticed for Rapid Grip, before he returned to Toronto in 1929 to work for the company’s Toronto branch. Bush developed a keen sense for bold design and a knack for efficient production in both his own professional and personal artistic work. Upon returning to Toronto, Bush enrolled in evening classes and sketching clubs targeted to commercial artists. Members organized evening and weekend sketching gatherings to develop their practices and build a community. During this time, the Group of Seven was still the dominant voice in Canadian art. For a young artist, Bush naturally sought inspiration and emulated many of the styles and techniques of the National School. Indeed, we can see the ragged chaos of the landscape and apt use of bold colour in “Tangled Trees”, not dissimilar to that of Arthur Lismer and Frederick Varley.

Dennis Reid states that “the national landscape at the outbreak of war still exercised an unrelenting hold upon the bulk of the painters of Toronto, [Charles] Comfort and Bush included.” While the landscape was still a dominant source of inspiration and subject matter for artist’s in the post-war period, “Tangled Trees” serves as an excellent example of Bush’s development into abstraction, acting as an insightful token of what was to come for the artist. Compared to his mature abstract works, “Tangled Trees”, painted in 1947 at Cameron Lake, exhibits “his familiar high-keyed yet saturated, just-off-primary colours; mustard, dusty pink, light blue, with blue-greens and browns, always accented with flashes of brilliant white and contrasting black shadows.” Form, flow and independent compositional elements are still paramount in these early works for the artist. Not purely abstract, the seeds of Bush’s abstract development are conveyed in “Tangled Trees”, particularly in the use of strokes of colour as vehicles for delineation of singular form. The landscape has been abstracted to a degree, mounds and rock forms exaggerated and tree forms simplified, all punctuated with bold contrasting colour, exemplifying the experimental and transitional period of artistic development Bush was experiencing at the time.

“Tangled Trees” is the painting Jack Bush chose to submit to the Canadian Group of Painters in November 1947, to be considered for his membership in the collective. Bush’s submission was accepted, and he successfully became a member of the group soon after, in 1948.

This artwork will be included in the forthcoming “Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné” by Dr. Sarah Stanners.

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Jack Hamilton Bush
(1909 - 1977) Painters Eleven, 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), John Hamilton (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.

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