Pratt’s painting, “Supper Table” is thought to have launched her career, firmly announcing her photorealistic style and immense talent in expressing light and colour.
In addition to her Bachelor of Fine Arts, Mary was awarded 9 honorary degrees from universities throughout Canada, including Dalhousie University, Memorial University, the University of Toronto, and St. Thomas University.
Pratt was once told by her famed art professor, Lawren Harris, that there can only be one successful painter in a marriage, and that it was going to be her husband, so she should instead focus on looking after her house and children. This rightfully angered Pratt and instilled a determination to do it all.
Pratt chaired a committee that advised on the creation of the School of Fine Arts at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook. She served on things you’d expect, as well as things like the government Task Force for Education in Newfoundland in 1973, on the Fishery Industry Advisory Board, and on the Board of Management of the Grace General Hospital in St. John’s.
Mary’s famed “Eggs in an Egg Crate” painting was finished shortly after the death of her 1-day old son, and the miscarriage of his twin several weeks before. Pratt was open about this traumatic loss, claiming that if she saw a box on the side of the road, she would ask Christopher (her husband) to stop in case there was a baby inside of it.
In a 2013 article in the Globe and Mail, Pratt said, “People will find out that in each one of [my] paintings, there is something that ought to disturb them, something upsetting. That is why I painted them.”
A recipient of many awards and honours, Pratt was named Companion of the Order of Canada in 1996, won the $50,000 Molson Prize for visual artists from the Canada Council for the Arts in 1997, and in 2013, she was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Pratt was the subject of several books, including “ The Art of Mary Pratt: The substance of light,” by Tom Smart and “Mary Pratt: Still Light” and “Mary Pratt“ by Ray Cronin and authored her own memoire titled “A Personal Calligraphy.”
“This is Donna,” one of Pratt’s more intimate paintings, is one of a series featuring Donna, the model shared by Mary and her first husband Christopher. The paintings were created from photos shot by both her and her husband.
As can be seen in her art, Pratt claimed she had a physical response to light and colour. She often told a story of the time as a child where she witnessed the sun shining through a red sweater her mother knit her. Pratt says she raced back home to see it again and was terribly upset to discover somebody had folded it and put the sweater away.