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A Personal Calligraphy

by (author) Mary Pratt

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2013
General, Artists, Architects, Photographers, Essays
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2013
    List Price

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Winner of the Newfoundland and Labrador Writers' Association Prize for Non-Fiction

Mary Pratt is famous throughout Canada for her luminous paintings and prints. Her 1995 exhibition, The Art of Mary Pratt: The Substance of Light, drew record-breaking crowds on its tour of Canada. It also resulted in an unprecedented amount of press coverage on the biographical content of her work. The accompanying book by Tom Smart sold more than 6,000 copies and made almost every "best book of the year" list in Canada.

Mary Pratt: A Personal Calligraphy features Mary's own writings, drawn and adapted from her personal journals, the essays that she has written for numerous publications ranging from The Globe and Mail to The Glass Gazette, and the lectures that she has given at many public events. For the first time, Mary has written her own book in her own words, rather than rely on others to write about her. Treating both public and private issues, she writes of her childhood in Fredericton — her connection to her family, life in Salmonier as a young mother, her decision to pursue her own career as an artist, and her complicated relationship with her husband, Christopher. She writes about public issues — the death of Joey Smallwood, the 50th anniversary of Newfoundland's entry into Confederation, and the cod fishery. She writes about the images that interest her and influence her art, and the process of painting. Like her paintings, Pratt's writing packs a sucker punch. At first it appears to be a paean to the pleasures of house and home, until the more disturbing aspects subtly reveal themselves. Ironing shirts become an erotic act; a memory of visiting the local market with her grandmother conjures images of violence; dead chickens, meticulously plucked, and carcasses of cattle, meticulously flayed, suggest rituals of sacrifice.

In Spring of 2001, Mary Pratt was awarded the Newfoundland and Labrador Writers' Association prize for Non-fiction for A Personal Calligraphy.

About the author

In 2007, Canada Post released a new stamp featuring a colourful painting of three jam bottles by East Coast artist Mary Pratt. Her work displays a nearly photographic realism, focusing on everyday objects connected with raising a family or running a home. Just before the stamp came out, Mary Pratt's official portrait of her friend, former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, was unveiled at Rideau Hall. Although she has been getting a lot of attention lately, she has been painting for most of her seventy-three years. Mary Pratt was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where she and her sister enjoyed an idyllic childhood. Her father was a lawyer and prominent local politician; her mother ran the household and tinted photographs on the side. Mary Pratt studied fine arts at Mount Allison University, where she met her future husband, the artist Christopher Pratt. In 1963, they moved to Salmonier, Newfoundland.

Mary Pratt's profile page


  • Winner, Newfoundland and Labrador Writers' Association Prize for Non-Fiction

Editorial Reviews

"Pratt combines journal entries, memoir and public utterance to reveal multiple subjectivities... Besides bearing witness to her consummate skill as a painter, the visuals become another form of autobiography... I feel that I have gained access to the heart of her artistic identity."

<i>Canadian Literature</i>

"A multi-faceted, deliberately fragmentary, and thoroughly engaging self-portrait."

<i>Quill & Quire</i>

Other titles by Mary Pratt