Sunday Morning No. 2 1968–70
Jack Chambers, Sunday Morning No. 2, 1968–70
Oil on wood, 121.9 x 121.9 cm
Loch Gallery, Toronto
A remarkable painting in many ways, Sunday Morning No. 2 was executed during the same period as Circle, The Hart of London, and 401 Towards London No. 1. It and 401 were used as illustrations in Chambers’s crucial 1969 manifesto, “Perceptual Realism.” The image presents an important moment for Chambers, a flash of insight when he saw his sons and the Chambers family’s domestic life together in a heightened, spiritual way. Though he worked painstakingly from photographs taken some time after the initial inspiration, Chambers did not try to reproduce this moment but rather tried to render the depth of his perception in terms available to his audience. This is the goal and genius of perceptual realism.
Again the question arises: To what extent and how did Chambers’s illness affect his artmaking? Chambers was diagnosed with leukemia in July 1969 and not given long to live. He was thirty-eight. He had nearly finished 401 at this time but not Sunday Morning No. 2. He did not choose this image because he was sick, but one of the many effects of this grave news was to make Chambers an even keener business person. Chambers did not consider the financial side of art as base, and nor should we in assessing the impact of his disease. In his 1978 autobiography he writes: “As long as I was healthy and producing there was no need to consider any other value than that of creating .... Now that my capacity to produce was in jeopardy, I was forced to turn my attention to a more practical value: the amount of money the work was really worth.” To provide for his family and also achieve a sale price commensurate with how he valued his work, Chambers set the price for this piece high, five times that paid for 401. Sunday Morning No. 2 sold for $25,000 in 1970, the highest price ever paid for a work by a living Canadian artist.