Lot #11

Jack H. Bush
Rose Red and Red, 1966

oil on canvas
signed, titled (twice), dated “Jan. 1966” and inscribed “The Waddington Galleries, London England” on the reverse
90 x 68.75 ins ( 228.6 x 174.6 cms )

The Artist
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto, 1967– January 1969
Dr. and Mrs. P. Beaglehole, Regina
Sotheby's, auction, New York, 9 May 1984, lot 38
Private Collection
Sotheby's, auction, New York, 15 February 1989, lot 90
Miriam Shiell Fine Art, Toronto
Private Collection
“Jacques Hurtubise and Jack Bush: São Paulo IX Biennial 1967”, São Paulo, Brazil, 1967
“Jack Bush: Ten Year Retrospective Exhibition 1960–1970 Paintings”, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina; travelling to the Edmonton Art Gallery, 5 March–10 June 1970, no. 3
“Jack Bush: A Retrospective”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; traveling to the Vancouver Art Gallery; the Edmonton Art Gallery; Musée d’art contemporain, Montreal; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 17 September 1976–31 July 1977, no. 23
Jack Bush: The Sash Paintings, Miriam Shiell Fine Art, Toronto, 1999
“Jack Bush: In Studio”, Esker Foundation, Calgary; travelling to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, 23 January 2016–8 January 2017
René Ostiguy, “Jacques Hurtubise and Jack Bush: São Paulo IX Biennial 1967”, National Gallery of Canada, 1967, unpaginated, no. 30
Hilton Kramer, ‘Richard Smith, British Painter, Wins Grand Prize at São Paulo Bienal’, “The New York Times”, 21 September 1967
‘Jack Bush’, “Architecture Canada 2”, no. 11 (October 1968), reproduced
Virgil Hammock, ‘Clearly no sell–out’. “Edmonton Journal” (May 22, 1970)
Terry Fenton, “Jack Bush”, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, 1970, no. 3, unpaginated, reproduced
“Jack Bush: A Retrospective,” Art Gallery of Ontario, 1976, no. 23, unpaginated, reproduced
Ken Carpenter, ‘The Inspiration of Jack Bush’, “Art International XXI” no. 4 (July/August 1977), page 21
Janice Andreae, "National Gallery exhibits Jack Bush retrospective," The Montreal Star, 21 July 1977
Murray Battle, “Jack Bush”, National Film Board of Canada [film], 1979
Karen Wilkin, “Jack Bush”, Toronto, 1984, reproduced page 80
“Jack Bush: The Sash Paintings”, Miriam Shiell Fine Art, 1999, reproduced page 5
Iris Nowell, “Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art”, Vancouver, 2010, reproduced page 51
Marc Mayer and Sarah Stanners, “Jack Bush”, National Gallery of Canada, 2014, reproduced page 68, 264
Sarah Stanners, “Jack Bush: In Studio”, Calgary, 2016, unpaginated, reproduced
Some paintings by Jack Bush positively glow and “Rose Red and Red” is a shining example. You’d be hard pressed to think of a mature Sash painting by Jack Bush that is any fresher than “Rose Red and Red”. Nothing about this painting registers as historical, as its actual age would suggest, which is now fifty–seven years. Its day–glow–like colours are intensely vibrant, giving the painting a strong contemporary presence, however, despite its ultramodern feeling, it is equally representative of its time. Its pink, red, orange, and sharp chartreuse green are banner colours of the swinging 60s. These colours were popping up everywhere between 1966 and 1967: the 1966 movie poster for “Endless Summer” set surfer silhouettes against a backdrop of hot pink, orange, and yellow; the 1967 album cover for the band “Cream” was a riot of orange and pink Day–Glo colours; and Frank Stella painted many of his Irregular Polygon paintings using alkyd fluorescent and epoxy paints, such as “Union I” (1966), which bears a dazzling pink, yellow, and pistachio palette.

It's unlikely that Bush ever used the brand–name Day–Glo paints, but he did embrace a high–key colour palette when painting “Rose Red and Red”. Painted in January 1966, this painting is among the last of his large oil paintings since he permanently switched to using water–based acrylic paints in March 1966. He had been painting with oil paints for over forty years, and “Rose Red and Red” is a testament to his mastery of luminosity, even with the thinnest application of paint. To break the tension of the oil–based medium, Bush thinned his oil paints with turpentine, which allowed the pigment to be absorbed by the unprimed canvas. Ultimately, the colour appears rubbed in, with hints of the lighter canvas showing through. The effect of varying levels of saturation is remarkably like the uneven appearance of colour achieved in the felt–tipped marker sketches which Bush often made in advance of his paintings through the 1960s and early 1970s. In both cases, the lightness of ground serves to boost the reflection of light that delivers colour to our eye.

“Rose Red and Red” has enjoyed a stellar exhibition history. Its first public debut was in Brazil at the IX Sao Paulo Biennial in 1967. Canada was represented by a duo of artists: Jack Bush and the much younger painter, Jacques Hurtubise (b. 1939). The U.S. contingent at the Biennial was robust, emphasizing Pop Art with works of art by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claus Oldenburg, Robert Indiana, and Robert Rauschenberg. Writing for “The New York Times”, art critic Hilton Kramer noted Bush’s close contention for the top prize in Sao Paulo that year: "There were several surprising omissions on the award list. The Canadian abstract painter Jack Bush, whose exhibition is much admired here and who is practically the only representative of color field painting in the bienal, is reported to have figured in debate over the top prize."

Three years later, “Rose Red and Red” was included in a ten–year retrospective held at the Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. The painting’s first private owner, Dr. Peter Beaglehole (1932–2022), sat on the acquisitions committee of the MacKenzie Art Gallery and championed the artist’s work. Between 1966 and 1974, the Gallery purchased two important paintings by the artist. While “Rose Red and Red” remained in private hands, Beaglehole continued to share the painting with the public through exhibitions and publications. In 1976, “Rose Red and Red” was featured in the artist’s nationally touring retrospective exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

In 2016, this bright painting was included in a double feature of exhibitions organized by Esker Foundation, which presented twenty paintings by Jack Bush alongside another robust exhibition that celebrated the contemporary work of Colleen Heslin (b. 1976).”

Both exhibitions, which were titled “Jack Bush: In Studio” (curated by me) and “Colleen Heslin: Needles and Pins” (curated by Naomi Potter), toured to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection after their inaugural presentation in Calgary. Despite the span of multiple generations between Bush and Heslin, this pairing shed new light on both artists; Heslin’s textile–based art encouraged the viewer to notice Bush’s success in uniting the fabric canvas with colour, and Bush’s fields of colour complemented Heslin’s ability to build a composition through literal shapes (fabric cuts) of colour. In this pairing, Bush felt as current as ever.

In our current age of wireless connections and AI advancements, large colour–forward paintings feel like a positive antidote to today’s overabundance of screens and their virtual realities. Maybe Jack Bush’s paintings would still be knock–out gorgeous in the metaverse, but basking in the actual glow of “Rose Red and Red” is a welcome visceral experience, beyond the limits of time.

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.

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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), 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.