Jack Bush

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Jack Bush
Born(1909-03-20)March 20, 1909
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedJanuary 24, 1977(1977-01-24) (aged 67)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Known forAbstract Expressionism, Post-Painterly Abstraction
MovementAbstract Expressionism, Color Field painting, Lyrical Abstraction

Bush, Big A, acrylic on canvas, 1968

John Hamilton "Jack" Bush (20 March 1909 – 24 January 1977) was a Canadian contemporary, abstract painter. His paintings are associated with the Color Field movement and Post-painterly Abstraction. Inspired by the master of Fauvism, Henri Matisse and other American abstract expressionist painters like Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, Bush encapsulated joyful yet emotional feelings in his vibrant paintings.

Life and early work[edit]

Bush was born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1909. As a young man, he attended the Royal Canadian Academy in Montreal, Quebec, where he studied with Adam Sheriff Scott and Edmond Dyonnet in the basic principles of art.[1]

In his early stages, Bush was influenced by the work of Charles Comfort and the Group of Seven. He began his professional career as a landscape artist and focused on painting landscapes, influenced by the Group of Seven (artists). He also attended Charles Comfort's weekly life model drawing sessions, hosted in Comfort's studio in Toronto. During the 1940s, he ran a commercial art business and, by night, furthered his studies at the Ontario College of Art. Bush, like other Canadian artists of the time, was sheltered from major European influences. After seeing the work of the American Abstract Expressionists in New York City, Bush's canvases changed dramatically.

Painters Eleven and after[edit]

Bush developed his work and approach to abstraction through the 1950s. He was a member of Painters Eleven, an influential group founded by William Ronald in 1954 to promote abstract painting in Canada, and was soon encouraged in his art by the American art critic Clement Greenberg. Critical at first, Greenberg became a mentor to Bush and encouraged him to refine his palette, technique, and approach. As a result of Greenberg's guidance, Bush became closely tied to Color Field Painting and Lyrical Abstraction.[2] Bush's work is based on an abstract record of his perception. Rather than expecting the audience to recognize his subject or experience the use of forms in his paintings, he shares the emotion of that experience by slabs and streaks of color. Bush became friends with artists associated with color-field like Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland and also Anthony Caro. As Painters Eleven disbanded in 1960, Bush moved on, and in the end became one of the more successful artists to come from this group.

Jack Bush represented Canada at the 1967 São Paulo Art Biennial, and in 1976 the Art Gallery of Ontario toured a large retrospective of his work. He died in Toronto at the age of 68 on 24 January 1977. In 1979, two years later, the National Film Board of Canada released a one-hour documentary file titled simply 'Jack Bush', directed by Murray Battle. [3] His son Terry is an award winning jingle writer, best known for singing and co-writing "Maybe Tomorrow", the theme for The Littlest Hobo.[4]


One of his most important influences was Henri Matisse (1869-1954), a French artist who led the Fauvist movement about 1900 by pursuing expressiveness of color throughout his career.

Bush once said to his peer and friend Kenneth Noland,

"What I'd really like to do is hit Matisse's ball out of the park."[5]

and Noland replied,

"Go ahead, Matisse won't mind at all." [6]


  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 1968
  • Royal Canadian Academy of Arts[7]
  • Canada Post honored Jack Bush with a Canadian postage stamp and a souvenir sheet released on March 20, 2009. The stamps featured his 1964 painting, Striped Column and his 1977 painting Chopsticks.[8]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Selected collections[edit]

  • National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
  • Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Tate Gallery, London
  • Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida


  1. ^ Reid, Dennis (1973). A Concise History of Canadian Painting. Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. 244. ISBN 0195402065.
  2. ^ [1] retrieved June 2, 2010
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ [3] retrieved January 8, 2012
  5. ^ https://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/jack-bush-radiant-abstraction
  6. ^ https://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/jack-bush-radiant-abstraction
  7. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  8. ^ Canada Post Details, January to March 2009, Volume XVIII, No. 1, pp. 24-25

Bibliography and Filmography[edit]

  • Boyanoski, Christine. Jack Bush: Early Work [exhibition catalogue]. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1985.
  • Carpenter, Ken. The Heritage of Jack Bush: A Tribute. Oshawa, Ont.: Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 1981.
  • Jack Bush, Paintings & Drawings, 1955-1976 [exhibition catalogue]. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1980.
  • Jack Bush [exhibition catalogue]. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1972.
  • Mayer, Marc and Stanners, Sarah. Jack Bush [exhibition catalogue]. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2014.
  • Wilkin, Karen (ed.). Jack Bush. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1984.
  • Jack Bush, documentary director Murray Battle, producer Rudy Buttignol (Cinema Productions for the National Film Board of Canada, 1979) 56 minutes.

External links[edit]