Mary Pratt

Red Currant Jelly

This little painting was one of the first paintings I did once I built a studio for myself outside the walls of the house where we lived as a family. Of course, I had made the jelly in the kitchen of the house and I had picked the berries from a bush just outside my new studio. Making jelly is hot, dangerous work – taking at least two days. But I had made jelly – or watched it being made – for as long as I could remember. It was so much a part of my summer life that when berries were exactly at the right stage of ripening – well – I made jelly. It was some sort of moral imperative. Crazy – I really didn’t have the time. But when it was finished and had been poured into sterilized cups or jars – all the scum and bubbles skimmed off – and settled on a window sill, it was beautiful. Before I was old enough to make jelly, I coloured water with paints and dyes and poured the painted water into glass jars and put them on the window sill in my bedroom so that I could just look at them. My mother didn’t mind my doing this as long as I kept my bedroom door closed. “People will think you are peculiar.” This little painting shows the results of several days’ work. I had no proper jelly jars, and used Pyrex custard cups. The white plate behind the cups holds the scum I had skimmed off the boiling jelly before it had reached the stage where I figured it was “done,” and would gel. I had no thermometer – I just knew by the size and shape of the bubbles – or maybe the smell of the kitchen. Whatever the reason, my jelly always gelled. And at Christmas or Thanksgiving, I could turn it out into a crystal dish, placed on the table, where it graced us all with the glory of summer’s abundance. Mary Pratt 23 February 2015
Red Currant Jelly
oil on masonite
45.9 x 45.6 cm
Credit line
Purchased 1976
Accession number