Carol Bishop-Gwyn admits she felt nervous launching her new book, “Art and Rivalry: The Marriage of Mary and Christopher Pratt,” in St. John’s. She was disappointed — but not surprised — that no one attended from any of the galleries that represent the two artists’ work.
St. John’s is, after all, the beating heart of Pratt country. There is loyalty here to these beloved Newfoundland artists — and nobody wants to see them in an unfavourable light.
“Art and Rivalry” has plenty of juicy details — most of which have been shared by the couple themselves in interviews over the years — but Bishop-Gwyn wasn’t interested in the Pratts for salacious gossip. Her biography is a fascinating view into how duelling ambitions and marital betrayal helped inspire some of the pair’s most iconic paintings.
“The friction in their marriage created greater work from them, particularly Mary. She was angry and it came out,” says Bishop-Gwyn, who lives in Toronto, but first met the Pratts through her now husband, Richard Gwyn, and his late wife, Sandra, during summer vacations to Newfoundland.
Each year, Bishop-Gwyn would visit each of the artists’ homes. Mary and Christopher were divorced by this point, but still appeared at events together. From her fly-on-the-wall vantage, Bishop-Gwyn began to build an understanding of the two artists and their relationship. Although her biography is unauthorized, Bishop-Gwyn spent time with both Pratts, observing and asking questions.
“I like to put things in context,” says Bishop-Gwyn, whose last book was a much-lauded “warts and all” biography of Celia Franca, co-founder of the National Ballet of Canada.
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