Nfld. & Labrador

Mary Pratt retrospective exhibit opens in St. John's

A gala opening for the works of famed Newfoundland and Labrador painter Mary Pratt was held at The Rooms in St. John's on Friday evening.

Collectors, galleries contribute pieces to 50-year retrospective

Mary Pratt

9 years ago
Duration 10:04
Mary Pratt discusses a 50-year retrospective exhibit celebrating her artwork, reports Angela Antle

A gala opening for the works of famed painter Mary Pratt was held at The Rooms in St. John's on Friday evening.

Collectors and galleries across the globe have contributed their pieces to the exhibit as part of a 50-year retrospective of Pratt's work.

Many of the artworks were toiled over for months, and when they were completed and sold, Pratt didn't see many of them again until she visited the exhibit before the gala event.

"It's lovely to see them again — nobody loves their work like I do," Pratt said.  "It's just sort of embarrassing to love your work so much, but I wouldn't do it if I hadn't loved the subject, you know, I wouldn't have ever bothered to paint the thing if I didn't fall in love with it to begin with."

Pratt painted many of her pieces in her kitchen, inclining some to believe her work was focused on the domestic lifestyle.

"I don't mind celebrating the domestic — I mean, how could we get along without it?" Pratt said.

"I think it's nice, frankly, to remember the things I had to do because they were sometimes very difficult, but in those days I could do it, I can't anymore — I mean, I can hardly walk across the floor," she added.

Pratt said she never thought about her work as focused on one kind of subject matter, and she just painted what struck her as beautiful.

"People have told me all about my paintings — people are very good at that. They'll tell you that, you know, because you were confined that you painted fruit in a bowl and all that kind of stuff," she said.

"Well, I don't know, the fruit was in the bowl, and it looked nice to me — it looked good — it looked as if it wanted to be saved."

Pratt said she always chose subject matter that moved her emotionally.

"When I see whatever I eventually paint, I'm filled with emotion. I mean, I have to cry — I think I am a closet emotional," Pratt said.

"I can sort of hang myself together and be polite and be all the things you're supposed to be, but really, as a child, I would go off and cry into the towels in the bathroom after half a day at school, and then I'd get myself organized and go back to school."

She said that her paintings are infused with her own attachment to the subject matter.

"I have found life very emotional and difficult to stay even, and I think that perhaps that comes out in the paintings — certainly I would never paint anything that didn't strike me emotionally, something that didn't physically bother me," Pratt said.

"And I suppose if there is emotion in the paintings, that's why — because there was emotion in me."

The collection of Pratt's work will be open at The Rooms until September, and then it will be moving to other galleries across Canada.