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Remembering Christopher Pratt

Christopher Pratt was, for decades, one of Canada’s most prominent painters and printmakers. He died on Sunday, June 5th, at his home at Salmonier, Newfoundland and Labrador. Pratt was a beloved artist known for his paintings of landscapes, roadscapes, waterscapes, and buildings of Newfoundland and Labrador, which he painted with stunning, sometimes magical, precision.

His last major book, Christopher Pratt: The Places I Go, was published jointly by Goose Lane Editions and the Rooms Corporation in 2015. Including essays by curator Mireille Eagan and archivist Larry Dohey, as well as one by Pratt himself, this amazing book featured paintings of many of Pratt’s favourite places as well as some of the most pivotal work from the later stages of his career.

Pratt often centred his attention on his beloved Newfoundland, although his paintings were often the products of his imagination, situated somewhere between reality and fiction. Carefully organized and precisely executed, the ordinary becomes archetypal; the mundane, alluringly mysterious.

In the 1950s, Pratt entered Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, to study pre-medicine. However, his interest in medicine didn't last; he was drawn to the fine arts and fell under the spell of fine arts professors Alex Colville and Lawren P. Harris, both of whom became major influences on his artwork.  

His time at Mount Allison also led to meeting his future wife, Mary (West) Pratt, an immense painting talent in her own right. Along with Colville and Harris, the Pratts helped push forward the school of magic realism, creating a force in Atlantic Canadian art that would define the national scene for decades.

Much has and can be said of Christopher Pratt and his work, but Pratt was perhaps his own most eloquent and perceptive commentator. Here is what he said about this art:

With respect to the origins of my work I think that it’s fair for me to say that my work is essentially autobiographical, and I say that because I’ve never really been preoccupied with the history of art or art about art, and my work essentially comes from my environment, but you have to take a very broad view of the term environment.  It’s not just obviously my geographical environment, although that’s very important, it’s also the social environment, the family environment of my childhood, memories that go back to there . . . and the experiences that followed.  It’s also the environment of things that I have read and encountered subsequently. But the bottom line really is that my work is the response to my life.

We’re grateful for the years of indelible and inimitable work left behind following Christopher’s death.

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