Mary Pratt

Red Currant Jelly

1972
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
Artist
Title
Red Currant Jelly
Date
1972
Medium
Painting
Materials
oil on masonite
Dimensions
45.9 x 45.6 cm
Nationality
Canadian
Credit line
Purchased 1976
Accession number
18526