The Sunday Edition

'I don't know that people allow themselves to love what is around them': Remembering painter Mary Pratt

Famed Canadian painter Mary Pratt died this Tuesday in St. John's at the age of 83. We revisit her 2013 interview with Michael Enright, and Karin Wells's essay about her work.
Artist Mary Pratt is pictured at work on a CBC-TV program on Jan. 31, 1996. (Ned Pratt/CBC Still Photo Collection)
Listen30:57

Interview originally aired on April 26, 2013.

Canada's beloved realist painter Mary Pratt died at her home in St John's on Tuesday. She was 83 years old. 

The artist created evocative paintings from the ordinary objects of everyday life in her Newfoundland studio.

Michael Enright spoke to Mary Pratt in 2013, on the eve of a retrospective exhibition of her paintings at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in St. John's. The show then toured across Canada. 

Pratt told Michael Enright she wanted people who saw her paintings to come away "knowing that it was OK to love stuff like that."

"I don't know that people allow themselves to love what is around them. Sometimes they resent it, because they've got to either cut it or serve it on a platter," said Pratt.

A few months after that interview aired, The Sunday Edition documentary producer Karin Wells visited Mary Pratt's exhibition at The Rooms in St. John's, along with the artist. Wells later wrote an essay about that visit. 

Documentary producer Karin Wells visited Mary Pratt's exhibition at The Rooms in St. John's, along with the artist. After that visit, Karin wrote an essay, which we broadcast in September 2013. 4:06

Original story from September 1, 2013 runs below.


"For some people, that's all the life they have. So, it's OK to love that small life," said Pratt in her 2013 conversation with Michael Enright. (Submitted)

Before her rise to fame, Pratt once swore off painting and took up sewing. But fortunately, thanks to some advice from her then-husband and painter Christopher Pratt, she realized that stitchery wasn't her thing. She traded her needle for a paintbrush. 

She ignored the advice of her teacher, Lawren Harris, who told her there could only be one painter in a household — and that at the Pratts', it wouldn't be her. 

In the mid-1960's, Mary Pratt began painting things she saw in her own home: fish fillets on a cardboard carton, jelly jars infused with sunlight or the aftermath of a family dinner. 

A 1999 oil painting entitled 'Jelly Shelf', by Mary Pratt (from a photograph by Ned Pratt) in the collection of the Equinox Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia. (Mary Pratt)

Each painting is a study of the play of light on everyday objects. The National Gallery of Canada called her 1972 painting, Red Currant Jelly, a "Canadian masterpiece."

Pratt received numerous honorary doctorates and awards. Two of her paintings are featured on Canadian stamps. And in 1997, she was named a Companion of the Order of Canada. 

A 2001 oil painting entitled Jello on Silver Platter, by Mary Pratt, in the collection of Fox Harb’r Golf Resort & Spa.