Lot #46

Jack Bush
Summer Gone

acrylic on canvas
signed, titled and dated “Aug. 1976” on the reverse (also titled on the stretcher)
28.5 x 61.5 ins ( 72.4 x 156.2 cms ) ( overall, triangular )

Sold for $90,000.00
Sale date: December 3rd 2020

Provenance:
Collection of the artist (August - September 1976)
Estate of Jack Bush
Waddington Galleries
Barbara Divver Fine Art, New York (January 1981)
The Charles and Marcia McCrae Family Collection, Pennsylvania
Private Collection, by descent, Reading, Pennsylvania
Freeman’s auction, Philadelphia, May 8, 2018, lot 37
Private Collection, Toronto
Canadian Fine Arts, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
According to the artist’s records, “Summer Gone” is the first triangle- shaped canvas of 1976 and the first in a run of shaped canvases dating to August 1976, including “Blue Partita and Green Partita”, which are diamond-shaped, and “Yellow Partita”, which is shaped like an isosceles triangle with two sides of equal length. Summer Gone is an irregular triangle with different lengths on all three sides: 62.5 x 51.25 x 34.25 inches (158.8 x 130.2 x 87 cm). There is a total of four triangle paintings in the artist’s oeuvre and “Summer Gone” is the only irregularly shaped triangle painting. The first two triangle-shaped paintings by the artist were made in April 1966. First, “Mabel’s Release #2” (now in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), and second, “Spring Triangle” (now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario; see final selection within available images).

One of the pioneers of the shaped canvas is Frank Stella, who Bush knew from his associations with American Color Field artists and the David Mirvish Gallery in Toronto. Bush was particularly impressed by the linear placement of colour and inventiveness of Stella’s “Irregular Polygon series” (1965-66). For Stella, as well as Bush, a shaped canvas liberated the painter from the confines of the traditional picture plane. Rather than being presented with a space for the illusion of objects, a shaped canvas becomes an object itself.

In the 1970s, Bush began to leave space around the far edges of his painted picture space. Sometimes, as with “Summer Gone”, he applied a light brown wash (diluted acrylic paint) to this border that separates the ground paint from the canvas edge. Pencil lines can be seen at the edge of the sponged-on background, which helped the artist to mind this purposeful gap when he painted his canvases unframed, tacked to a false wall in his studio. His pencil lines also reveal the fact that he was following a predetermined plan, not just working with a random piece of canvas. With a 41-year-long career as a commercial artist specializing in illustration, Bush never did shake his habits as a careful draughtsman.

As the title suggests, “Summer Gone” was painted in August. The summer of 1976 was the artist’s last summer. Bush died of a heart attack in January 1977, at the age of sixty-seven. While Bush left no clue as to the exact source of his title – and it may simply be a sentimental end of season thought – there is a song called “Summer’s Gone” by Paul Anka, released in 1960, which feels apt:

Summer’s gone and no songbirds are singing
Because you’re gone, gone from my arms
Gone from my lips but you’re still in my heart

This painting will be included in Dr. Sarah Stanners’ forthcoming “Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné”.

We extend our thanks to Dr. Sarah Stanners for contributing the preceding essay. Sarah is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Art History while writing the forthcoming “Jack Bush Catalogue Raisonné”. From 2015 to 2018 she was the Chief Curator of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Co-Curator of the 2014/2015 national travelling exhibition, Jack Bush, Co-Author of the resulting 2014 exhibition catalogue (”Jack Bush”) and guest curator and author for “Jack Bush: In Studio”, organized by the Esker Foundation in Calgary.

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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.