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Jack Hamilton Bush

 (1909 - 1977)
Jack Hamilton Bush was active/lived in Ontario, Quebec, New York / Canada.  Jack Bush is known for color field abstract painting.

Jack Hamilton Bush

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Jack Hamilton Bush
Jack Hamilton Bush, called Jack, was born in Toronto, 1909 and raised in Montreal.   After finishing high school, he became an apprentice in the Art Department of the Rapid Grip Company in Montreal, where his father was a manager.   Between 1926 and 1927, he studied with Adam Sheriff Scott, and attended night school at the Art Association of Montreal under Edmond Dyonnet in 1927-28.  For career reasons, he moved to Toronto in 1928 where he attended evening classes at the Ontario College of Art, studying among others under John William Beatty, Charles Comfort, and James Edmund Hervey MacDonald.

By 1950, Bush was experimenting with abstraction and was exhibiting in various group shows.  In 1952 he visited New York, mainly to see first-hand some of the works that were being produced there and which he had only seen in reproduction. That same year, he participated in the show "First Canadian Art Abstract Exhibition" in Oshawa, which led to his involvement in 'Painters Eleven'.

In 1953, he participated in the exhibition "Abstracts at Home" at the Robert Simpson Company store, which also included works by Oscar Cahén, Alexandra Luke, Kazuo Nakamura, Ray Mead, Tom Hodgson, and William Ronald, all abstract artists.  Realizing they would fare better exhibiting as a group, they invited four more artists into their circle, to avoid any reference to the Group of Seven, and called themselves Painters Eleven.  Their first group show was held at the gallery of Bush's dealer, the Robert Gallery.  Bush had been influenced to move from representational to non-objective art initially by his teacher Charles Comfort.

By 1955, his work had become completely abstract and showed the influence of Abstract Expressionism.  In 1957, the influential American art critic Clement Greenberg visited Bush in Toronto, advising him to shed the influence of Abstract Expressionism, to simplify his art and move in a new direction.  Bush followed the advice, and by the mid-60s experimented with Color-Field painting, usually producing large-scale oils.

Michael Greenwood noted in the conclusion of his article on Bush (Artscanada, June-July 1971):  "Color painting is especially vulnerable to the hazards and conscious 'art-making' -the Sirens of Preciosity and Cultism often lurk nearby- the continued energy and risk-taking innovations apparent in Bush's new work suggest that he is on guard against them.  Fortunately, he seems to have adopted one of Rose Sélavy's most trenchant mottoes: "I force myself into self-contradiction in order to avoid following my task."

Jack Bush participated in many national and international group shows and exhibited solo between 1945 and 1977.

He died in 1977 in Toronto at the age of sixty-six.


Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Jack Hamilton Bush

The following text was written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher of Laguna Woods, California:

Jack Bush grew up in Montreal where he worked concurrently as an apprentice in the Art Department of a local business and training in painting at night school. He continued to work for the same company while studying nights at Ontario School of Art.  In 1934 he married (her name was Mabel) and they had three sons.  During the years 1953 to 1960, with several others, he co-founded the Painters Eleven.    

In Ontario, Bush was a late convert to fine art from the commercial field of advertising and illustration. His painting, though far from naive, was like much of his contemporaries' work. His indoctrination came from seeing works by John Marin and Lyonel Feininger at first hand.  His first trip to New York in 1952 found uncertainty regarding his direction deepening and he began to contribute to abstract art exhibitions.   

1957 marked for Bush a stimulating point; the acceptance of the Canadian artists along with the Americans bolstered Bush' ambition and self-direction.  He became dedicated to the form of large canvases on which broad, cleanly defined areas of high-keyed colour were placed against a pure background.  Five years later he was painting in the same style.  He had matured in the art territory called Abstract Expressionism.   

G.S.Whittet in Contemporary Artists

Biography from Boca Raton Museum of Art
Jack Hamilton Bush(1909-1977)

Jack Bush was a Canadian painter, one of his country's most renowned contemporary artists and a leading exponent of abstract art. During his 40-year career, he also became celebrated as one of Canada's most original color-field* painters and the first Canadian to take part in a major world art movement.

He started his career painting during nights and weekends. During the day, he worked full-time as an advertising illustrator and commercial designer.  In the 50's, while on regular visits to N.Y. he moved to type of abstract expressionism*. The gestural* painting of the New York School* also influenced him.

Later he developed a more individual style, exploring the unaffectedly emotional use of color. In the early 60's he broke through and adopted the procedure of staining paint into unprimed canvas.  In 1967 he represented Canada at the São Paulo Art Biennial*. In 1976 the Art Gallery of Ontario did a retrospective of his work. He died in 1977.

By The Boca Raton Museum of Art
Catalina Torres (Intern)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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About  Jack Hamilton Bush

Born:  1909 - Toronto, Canada
Died:   1977 - Toronto, Canada
Known for:  color field abstract painting