Artwork by Jack Hamilton Bush,  Zheeg
Thumbnail of Artwork by Jack Hamilton Bush,  Zheeg Thumbnail of Artwork by Jack Hamilton Bush,  Zheeg Thumbnail of Artwork by Jack Hamilton Bush,  Zheeg

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Mayberry Fine Art
212 McDermot Ave
Winnipeg MB R3B 0S3
Ph. 1(866)931-8415

Lot #14

Jack Bush

acrylic on canvas
signed, titled, dated “Feb. 1975” and inscribed “Toronto” and “acrylic polymer W.B.” on the reverse
80.5 x 37.5 in ( 204.5 x 95.3 cm )

Auction Estimate: $350,000.00$250,000.00 - $350,000.00

The Artist
Private Collection, New York, October 1975
Acquavella Contemporary Art, New York
Ken Carpenter, Toronto, February 1976
By descent to the present Private Collection, Toronto
Ken Carpenter, 'The Evolution of Jack Bush', "Journal of Canadian Art History", IV:2, 1977-78, figure 11, page 127
"Zheeg" is an example of what Professor Ken Carpenter personally loved and professionally espoused: the abstract paintings of Jack Bush. Carpenter was an expert on the artist, having published eight articles featuring the work of Jack Bush and a catalogue, "The Heritage of Jack Bush: A Tribute", to accompany an exhibition by the same title which he curated for the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in 1981. He knew Jack Bush and his writing benefited from the connection he had made. Soon after Bush’s sudden passing in January 1977, Carpenter’s writing on the artist proliferated, as if to savour what had been lost.

Carpenter was also a professor of art history at Toronto’s York University. Jack Bush had designed a banner for York University’s Vanier College, in 1965, and Carpenter proudly hung the resulting banner in his home. His two beloved Bush paintings, "Zheeg and Vic Day", were also present in his home. When I met with Carpenter to document his paintings for the catalogue raisonné, in 2012, he shared the special connection he felt with "Zheeg". As he likely told others, Carpenter dreamt of Zheeg before he purchased the painting, or even knew of its existence. (Conversation with the author, 18 October 2012)

"Zheeg" is a vision, and after Carpenter purchased it in 1976 at New York’s Acquavella Gallery, it remained close to him for the rest of his life. A photograph of the curator with "Zheeg" by Mario Schembri was included alongside Carpenter’s Preface to ""The Heritage of Jack Bush"".

What Carpenter admired most about Bush’s musical paintings was their sense of freedom, and in this category, he called "Zheeg" a masterpiece. Bush’s musical paintings, which are sometimes referred to as “lyrical”, are fully realized in terms of exuding a sense of freedom, but reaching this pinnacle was an ongoing pursuit from the beginning of his career. As Carpenter once observed: “One of the most important constants of Bush’s art is the tendency for the elements to have a life and freedom of their own.” Playful free-floating strokes of colour became the most prevalent motifs seen in Bush’s late painting, from 1974 onward, and yet these same lively colour strokes make an appearance in his paintings as early as 1941, in an oil sketch titled "Summer Cottage". The artist made a larger studio version of the same painting in 1942, and both paintings feature curtains and a throw blanket covered in freely painted colour strokes that match the lyrical motifs in his late paintings. Could it be that his time away with family at a beach retreat formed a core memory that he drew upon later to produce his late abstract paintings? It is impossible to say, for sure, but as Carpenter argued from the beginning of his interest in Jack Bush, there was an evolution apparent in Bush’s paintings from beginning to end.

Even without the concept of an evolved aesthetic that culminated in abstract paintings that express a sense of freedom, that is, setting aside all that I have outlined here, "Zheeg" was painted with confidence and candour – the kind that only a fully realized artist can produce. You may notice dribble marks down the length of the canvas; this is the result of his sponge work to produce the mottled ground. Bush soaked his sponge in paint and took to the raw canvas with vigour and immediacy, without a worry for precision. These water lines are markers of this painting’s making – a carefree action with a beautiful result.

Finally, the name of this painting is playful. In 1974, Bush began to use a glossary of musical terms as a resource for titles. My best estimation of how he arrived at the title "Zheeg" is that he used the phonetic spelling of the term “Gigue” (/ʒi:ɡ/ ZHEEG, French: [ʒiɡ]), which is related to the English term “jig” and describes a lively folk dance. The Gigue is usually the last dance of a Baroque suite and is upbeat in nature. The vertical climb of Bush’s colour strokes in "Zheeg" also feel uplifting, like a sprightly jig. The Gigue is also often contrapuntal in nature, meaning that it has two independent melodic lines. In "Zheeg", we see two distinct sections in the quick line of colour notes: six up and three down.

The most liberating aspect of abstraction is that the possibilities for meaning and feeling are endless. Jack Bush did not subscribe to any one theory of art or pound out a manifesto of beliefs; he painted freely, and he played with colour. Carpenter knew this, too, and summarized this quality best in the title for his last piece of writing on the artist, in 2015: "Playful, Searching and Mischievous: The Paintings of Jack Bush."

A list of publications by Ken Carpenter on Jack Bush:

Ken Carpenter, “‘Playful, Searching and Mischievous’: The Paintings of Jack Bush.”
artcritical, 29 January 2015.

———. 'A Celebration of Two Canadian Abstractionists: Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald', "Abcrit", 8 April 2015

———. 'Painters Eleven in Retrospect', "artmagazine 11", no. 47 (February/March 1980), pages 17–21

———. 'Jack Bush at the Emmerich Gallery', "artmagazine 10", no. 45? (May/June 1979), pages 90–92

———. 'The Evolution of Jack Bush, "The Journal of Canadian Art History/Annales de l’histoire de l’art canadien IV", no. 2 (1978), pages 121–129

———. 'The Inspiration of Jack Bush', "Art International XXI", no. 4 (July/August 1977), pages 19–27, 56

———. 'In Praise of Jack Bush 1909–1977', "Canadian Forum", April 1977, page 24

———. 'Painting as Painting: The State of Art Criticism in Canada', "Canadian Forum", September 1976, pages 29–31

This painting will be included in Dr. 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.
For additional images and/or details related to this artwork, please visit the digital catalogue:
Sale Date: May 30th 2024

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Mayberry Fine Art
212 McDermot Ave
Winnipeg MB R3B 0S3
Ph. 1(866)931-8415

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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.