Artwork by Jack Hamilton Bush,  Angry Man

Jack Bush
Angry Man

oil on board
signed and dated 1951 lower right; signed, titled and dated (mistakenly) 1961 on the reverse and upon the Jack Bush Art Estate label; inscribed “P-1” on a second label affixed to the reverse
30 x 24 ins ( 76.2 x 61 cms )

Auction Estimate: $35,000.00$25,000.00 - $35,000.00

Price Realized $38,400.00
Sale date: June 15th 2022

Collection of the artist
Private Collection, Ontario
“Jack Bush”, Roberts Gallery, Toronto, 1952, cat. no. 6
“Jack Bush: Hymn to the Sun, Early Work”, Art Gallery of Algoma, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, 1997 (travelling exhibition)
“John Lennard / Jack Bush, Two Artists Separated by Generations with a Shared Vision”, Roberts Gallery, Toronto, November 10-26, 2016
Robert Amos, ‘Baring a tormented soul’, “The Times-Colonist” [Victoria, B.C.], 19 April 1998
Christine Boyanoski, “Jack Bush: Early Work” [exhibition catalogue], Art Gallery of Ontario, 1985, page 23
Michael Burtch, “Jack Bush: Hymn to the Sun, Early Work” [exhibition catalogue], Art Gallery of Algoma, 1997, reproduced page 86
Jessica Poon, “‘Harmonious Disagreement’: Painters Eleven, Abstraction, and the Construction of Canadian Modernism in the 1950s” [PhD dissertation], University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 2018, page 50
Marilyn Smulders, ‘Catharsis on canvas’, “The Daily News “[Halifax, N.S.], 20 September 1997
“Angry Man” is arguably the most abstract portrait ever made by Jack Bush. While it exudes raw emotion it does not belong to the psychological portraits that he made in 1947 when he began therapy for his state of tension. Those watercolours, such as “Frightened Boy”, were made to facilitate his own personal introspection and therefore not intended for public exhibition. “Angry Man” was painted four years later, in 1951, and its execution in oil on board, along with its close attention to creating a dynamic composition, make it something much more than a flash of creative catharsis; “Angry Man” was made to impress. Bush confidently included “Angry Man” in his 1952 solo exhibition at Roberts Gallery in Toronto, and the show was well received. A critic for “Saturday Night” magazine reviewed the exhibition and remarked that, “Jack Bush has opened a new vein which might lead him to some rich future discoveries in paint.” The reputation for success which Bush made with his abstract art soon served to convince Roberts Gallery to host the first Painters Eleven exhibition in 1954.

In these early years of the 1950s, Bush was exposed to international modern art more than ever before. His membership with the newly formed Art Directors Club of Toronto provided the impetus for his first trip to New York City in 1950. At home, Bush explored the Skira series of books on modern art, such as “The History of Modern Painting: From Picasso to Surrealism”, which was released in 1950. In an exhibition catalogue published by the AGO in 1985, Christine Boyanoski pointed out the debt of Bush’s “Angry Man” to Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” (1937) which appeared in full colour in the Skira book owned by Bush. Both portraits are composed with sharp facets of vibrant colour framed by rough black outlines. Picasso’s “Weeping Woman “is a portrait of the horrors suffered by the people of Basque during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso used abstraction to create an icon of widespread suffering. Bush’s “Angry Man”, on the other hand, employed abstraction to express the extremity of internal conflict.

Exuberance is not exclusive to subjects of happiness. “Angry Man” is rich with intensity, vigour, and authenticity. In praise of Bush’s 1952 exhibition, where “Angry Man” made its public debut, art critic Pearl McCarthy was bang on when she wrote, “Mr. Bush paints honestly.”

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 Paintings: A 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, 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.