The Suitcase Lady


September 11, 2018, 8:22 pm

I recently read an artist’s obituary in the Times that took up almost a full page and was accompanied by stunning photos of her paintings. The artist was completely unfamiliar to me. After finishing the article, I felt completely cheated out of knowing about her and her work for a lifetime.

There is a good reason why Mary Pratt is not a familiar name to art lovers. She was born in New Brunswick 83 years ago into a wealthy family. Her father was New Brunswick’s attorney general and he nurtured her love of art and supported her choice of studying art at a New Brunswick university. She excelled in her painting classes. She also fell in love with another talented art student, Christopher Pratt.

In her senior year, “she was pulled aside by a professor and given some unsolicited advice: There could be only one painter in her household, and it would have to be her husband, Christopher”.

After graduation, the couple moved to an isolated shack in rural Newfoundland where Christopher painted his way into being one of Canada’s most famous painters and Mary took care of raising their four children and keeping the household running. But when the housework was done and the children napping or in school, she stole the time to paint what she saw around her…..homemade jelly cooling in their sparkling glasses, the decapitated, bloody fish in the sink. With painting time a luxury, she worked on small Masonite boards.

I was so touched by Mary Pratt’s life story that I wanted to know more and found an eloquent, moving tribute written about her by Murray Whyte, the Toronto Star’s art critic. I began by wanting to share some quotes from that article, but I soon realized that I wanted to quote it all….so here is the link. Our kitchen activities may never look the same again.

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