Christopher Pratt

John Christopher Pratt, CC, ONL, painter, printmaker (born 9 December 1935 in St John's, NL; died 5 June 2022 in Salmonier River, NL). Christopher Pratt is considered one of the greatest classicists of contemporary Canadian painting, alongside his mentor, Alex Colville. Pratt is well known for his meticulous and pristine studies with typically Atlantic settings. He designed Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial flag in 1980 and was called “Canada’s most famous living painter” by the Globe and Mail in 2013. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1983 and received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018.

John Christopher Pratt, CC, ONL, painter, printmaker (born 9 December 1935 in St John's, NL; died 5 June 2022 in Salmonier River, NL). Christopher Pratt is considered one of the greatest classicists of contemporary Canadian painting, alongside his mentor, Alex Colville. Pratt is well known for his meticulous and pristine studies with typically Atlantic settings. He designed Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial flag in 1980 and was called “Canada’s most famous living painter” by the Globe and Mail in 2013. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1983 and received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018.


Education

Christopher Pratt was encouraged by his wife, Mary Pratt, to study at the Glasgow School of Art (1957–59) and at Mount Allison University (1959–61), where he worked with Alex Colville. He then taught at Memorial University before deciding to paint full-time in 1963.

Career Highlights

Pratt is well known for his meticulous and pristine studies with typically Atlantic settings, purged of all extraneous detail. He focuses on images drawn from recollection. Through Pratt's eyes, Newfoundland and Labrador resembles another country; it is a stark land of sharp contrasts. His architectural studies are equally clean and ordered and lacking in sentimentality. All his work projects a mood of aloneness and stark, austere beauty. This quality can also be seen in his design for the provincial flag of Newfoundland and Labrador, which he was commissioned to produce in 1980.

Newfoundland Flag

Along with Colville, Pratt is one of the greatest classicists of contemporary Canadian painting. Pratt's figure subjects suggest the same hauntingly remote but sturdy reality. Sometimes their shy sensualism can be disturbing amid Pratt's focus on a quiet existence. Tom Smart, director of Fredericton’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery and author of Christopher Pratt: Six Decades, once said, “There's magic in his paintings. He's called a magic realist for a reason. You look at his paintings and it's almost as if they're looking back at you.”

Some of Pratt’s paintings are on permanent display at the National Gallery of Canada, The Rooms, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. A major retrospective of his work toured Canada in 1986. He was represented by Toronto’s Mira Godard Gallery for more than 50 years. In 2018, he was profiled in Kenneth J. Harvey’s feature documentary Immaculate Memories: The Uncluttered Worlds of Christopher Pratt.

Honours

Pratt received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Memorial University in 1972. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1973 and was promoted to Companion in 1983. He also received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018.