Jack Bush Canadian, 1909-1977


Jack Bush was one of Canada’s foremost modern painters. He grew up in Montréal and began his career studying at the Royal Canadian Academy. During the 1930s Bush operated a graphic art studio by day and attended classes at Ontario College of Art in Toronto by night. He trained with Group of Seven member J.E.H. MacDonald, and whose flat planes of jewel-like colours would influence Bush’s lifelong fascination with colour as a means of expression.


Bush received critical acclaim for his geometric, abstract paintings in the 1960s. He "encapsulated joyful yet emotional feelings" in these vibrant works. Paintings like Centre 3 (1968) are characterized by “thinly-painted areas, often in parallel bands that form a central column or… align align with one edge of the painting.” We can compare this painting to Summer (1969), which shares a similar compositional structure to Centre 3. In these works, Bush achieved a striking balance between the canvas and the paint: “Colour and surface are one and the same”.  A 1970 exhibition catalogue describes how “there is a kind of openness and nakedness to the colour in Bush’s paintings… There is… a richness of relationship across and within the surfaces of his pictures.”


Bush developed his approach to abstraction through visits to New York City and Montréal. He was influenced by the American Abstract Expressionists, and from 1953-1960 he was a member of the Painters Eleven group of abstract artists. He was praised and eventually mentored by the prominent American art critic Clement Greenberg. It was Greenberg who encouraged Bush to refine his technique and approach, which eventually tied his work with the two movements born from Abstract Expressionism: Color Field Painting and Lyrical Abstraction. In 1968, Bush received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Painting in Canada and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.


Major retrospectives of Jack Bush's work were exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the Musée d'Art Contemporain, Montreal; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. The exhibition "Jack Bush: Paintings and Drawings" was exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery in London, UK. Bush also exhibited widely during his lifetime at André Emmerich Gallery, New York and Zurich; David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton; and the São Paulo Art Biennial. His work is held in the permanent collections of the Tate Gallery, London; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal; among other public and private collections. In 1976 Bush became an Officer of the Order of Canada.