Mary Pratt July 20, 2019
Mary Pratt was a Canadian painter specializing in still life, realist paintings. Much of her work focused on domestic scenes. For example, she typically did incredibly realistic paintings of plates of food, jars of jams, and other ‘kitchen’ related scenes.
Pratt painted items she saw around her, with astonishing realism. A jar of currant jelly glowed from within. The aluminum foil holding a meal of fish seemed to have eerie qualities. The flowers she picked outside became beacons of strength.
Mary Pratt’s painting, ‘Supper Table’ is the work that launched her career. In ‘Supper Table’, she shows off the immense talent of her photorealistic style using nuances of light and colour.
In addition to her Bachelor of Fine Arts, Mary was awarded several honorary degrees from universities throughout Canada. These include Dalhousie University, Memorial University, the University of Toronto, and St. Thomas University.
Slightly Slighted By Lawren Harris
Married to Canadian painter, Christopher Pratt, she was told by her art professor, Lawren Harris, that there can only be one successful painter in a marriage. And it was going to be her husband. But Harris’ assertion rightfully angered her, and instilled in her a steadfast determination. In their home in Salmonier in rural Newfoundland, Mary Pratt would set up her easel in the garden, kitchen or dining room. She had to work around life raising four children, cleaning, cooking meals and hosting dinner parties.
In a 2013 article in the Globe and Mail, Pratt said, “People will find out that in each one of [my] paintings, there is something that ought to disturb them, something upsetting. That is why I painted them.” In viewing the various bowls of fruit and jars of jams that she often painted, it’s difficult to know what she meant. But her famed “Eggs in an Egg Crate” painting was completed shortly after the death of her 1-day old son. No doubt, this traumatic loss had an effect on much her subsequent work.
Mary Pratt, who lived in St. Johns, New Brunswick for most of her life, died in 2018. Before her death, Pratt had spoken extensively with filmmaker Kenneth J. Harvey. Based on those interviews, Harvey made an award-winning documentary, It Was All So Wonderful: The Everyday Magic of Mary Pratt, which debuted on the CBC in 2019.
Pratt found her inspiration in what was often nearest to her: the food she bought to cook, the meals her four children ate, the little things of domestic life. It is this observational style I try to bring to my work.