(Calendar @ bottom of post)
Emily Carr was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 1871. Today, she is recognized as one of Canada's most talented female artists - a painter, a writer, and a free spirit who was deeply influenced by the coastal forest of British Columbia and the Northwest Coast Native art and culture.
When she was about 8 years old, Carr drew a picture of her father's dog that so impressed him, he arranged for her to take drawing lessons. While in her twenties, she attended the California School of Design in San Francisco. She also studied art in London and Paris. When she returned to Canada, she taught art to a ladies group for 4 years. As a painter, she didn't feel that people appreciated her modern style so she gave it up for 15 years. During that time she ran a boarding house and wrote a book.
Carr met some like minded artists, the Group of Seven, and began painting again when she was 56 years old. Usually painting nature scenes, she began to get recognition for her artwork. Later she had a heart attack and stopped painting but continued to write books and had her first book published in 1945. She died at age 74 in Canada and has become a major figure of Canadian history. The Vancouver Art Gallery has more than 200 of her works in their permanent collection, and the house she lived in as a child is now a museum - you can visit it!
Top: photographs of Emily Carr through (1871-1945)
When Carr was living the art world was dominated by male artists. Art was not considered a serious occupation for women-it was a ladylike pastime in Victoria-somewhat akin to embroidery. Carr's independence and early rebellion helped to advance her artistic endeavors. With a love of nature and a deep sense of spirituality she created lots of paintings based on her observations. Primarily focusing on the forest landscapes and the skies of British Columbia as well as the villages of the Coastal Indians. She documented all that she saw with an emphasis on totem polls and trees.
"The oldest art of our west, the art of the Indians, is in spirit very modern, full of aliveness and vitality...the foundation that the Indian built his art upon was his totem. He did not worship it, but he did reverence it tremendously. Most of the Totems were animal representations, thus animal life played a great part in the life of the Indian and his art."
Emily Carr, Fresh Seeing, 1930
How many of us have hiked or visited in a forest? What did you see when you were there? Although women did not typically venture into the forest, Emily Carr made several outings. In fact, she visited native settlements regardless of the physical challenges. Imagine foraging through a forest without a groomed trail while carrying your basic needs. You encounter hot and stormy weather, along the way you hear strange sounds and come upon people of a different language and culture. Do you think that this was easy back then, or even today? During her visits she made many small sketches and paintings of the native villages. This was a time that the Totem poles were not considered art, and the people were considered savages, or "savage" like. However, Carr had a mind of her own and respected the native people. Her paintings documented the Totem poles and villages when many were being abandoned during colonial European exploitation.
This village above, is located at the junction of the Kispiox and Skeena Rivers in northern British Columbia and contains a collection of Totem poles which are now considered historical monuments. Kispiox, known as "People of the Hiding Place," erected totem poles (which were an integral part of this indigenous identity and history) to commemorate the dead, signify ownership, and offer insight into the heritage of the local people.
Do you go to Church? Many of us do. Emily Carr was raised in an Orthodox family where religion was an important part of their life. She and her sisters were expected to follow the rigid household and societal rules and attend church regularly. She considered herself spiritual but not religious, and she often avoided the prim and proper household rules by escaping into the forest.
What do you see as the main focal point? You probably first notice the white church, however look how Carr has engulfed it with the contrasting vibrant green trees. Is she giving the trees purpose and meaning. Do you see her use of shapes? What shapes do you see and where? Triangles and rectangles-church, crosses and trees. How does she show value? look at the shading among the trees. How many greens do you see? Notice the variants of colors.
When you hear the word movement, what do you think of? Body movement, transportation, maybe nature...movement was much a part of Carr's paintings. Notice the sweeping ground holding up the majestic raven. Nature and the bird become one. Why does she give this painting movement? Are the shapes you see organic?
Based on her early influences of time in France you will notice how parts of the sky is taking shape and form in the cubic style-the white rectangular sections. Carr had the luxury of meeting French artists and seeing their works. Afterwords, she approached painting by focusing on color, space, and light. What does Cubism mean? Can you name an artist in France who influenced Cubism? Picasso.
This painting was in 1931, It is on oil canvas, and is 112 x 68.8 cm. Do you see a repetition of shape in this painting? (cone) Carr titled this painting The Little Pine, what do you think she is trying to tell the viewer about the tree?
Emily Carr not only saw a decline in the villages and the people during a rise in English settlement, but she also witnessed changes to the forest. Trees were being cut for wood. How does this painting make you feel? What is the artist trying to convey? Today we have environmentalists who have formed organizations to help create National acts to protect our National Parks and Forests-one example the Sierra Club. Carr may have been ahead of her time-a conservationist. Can you name a National Park in our state here in Oregon? Crater Lake
Notice the sky...
can you think of another artist that painted similar skies and images (movement) in the style of Expression? Vincent Van Gogh
What does the sky tell you?
Here is another painting, painted on oil canvas ( 112.8 x 69 cm). She has abandoned her early teachings of depicting traditional representation of nature and landscapes. She uses motion and color to bring life to the forest. To Carr, the forest and all within were lifelike with a pulsing heart. Working quickly and spontaneously, she joyfully expresses the liveliness of the forest in a new and innovative way. Can you imagine the ocean waves (a tsunami perhaps) sweeping through the forest? What would become of the trees? Does the "rushing sea" symbolize something?
Tidbit about Carr...During Carr's summer sketching trips, she traveled in a trailer, known as the "Elephant" along with her monkey, rat and four dogs. Realizing that she needed to make ends meet, she even raised and sold English bobtail sheepdogs. Do you think Emily Carr appreciated animals as well and nature?
One tree showing the transition from summer to fall. We can see that the tree is the main focal point, but what else do you see? Maybe a lake and a mountain...If we were to step into this painting to look closer to the tree, would we be standing in an elevated area? Can you think of a National Park in Oregon that I have mentioned earlier that may share some commonalities with this image...perhaps Crater Lake? The next picture is Crater Lake.
What are some differences in this picture? Colors, time of year, type of tree, position of the tree...
The following pictures are to give us an idea of how we would paint or draw like Emily Carr. Let's try to have tree(s) be our focal points.
Emily Car was a Canadian artist born in Victoria, British Columbia. Carr's art was greatly influenced by the indigenous groups in the Pacific Northwest of Canada. Carr grew up in a two story house that is now known as the Emily Carr house and is a registered historical landmark in Canada.
Carr's parents died when she was only a teenager. Their death contributed to her decision to move to San Francisco. Carr realized her interest in art and enrolled in the California School of Design. When Carr finished school, she moved back to Victoria where she transformed a family barn into a painting studio. Carr worked on her own paintings and offered art classes to children. After a few years of working in her self-made studio, Carr decided to continue her education and moved to London to study at the Westminster School of Art. Carr was not fond of the climate in London and relocated numerous times to schools in Cornwall, Bushey and Hertfordshire England.
In 1910, Carr spent a year studying at the Academic Colarossi in Paris before settling in her native British Columbia. Carr was fascinated by the First Nations cultures and made several visits to the Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka'wakw, Haida, Tsimshian and Tlingit communities. Carr picked up the practice of painting totem poles in order to leam more about the First Nations people. During this time, Carr made paintings influenced by the post-impressionist and fauvist styles she had learned during her stay in France.
In 1913, Carr returned to Victoria for financial reasons. Carr felt extremely isolated and unable to find artistic support. Carr stopped painting for several years and worked as a potter and dog breeder.
In 1920, Carr was invited to participate in a show at the National Gallery of Canada in Ontario titled "Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern". At the exhibition Carr met the "Group of Seven" a group of male artists who were focused on creating distinctly Canadian art. Carr was accepted by the group and began showing with them. With greater acceptance, Carr's enthusiasm in painting was restored, and she made some of her best-known pieces. The Group of Seven sometimes referred to Carr as "The Mother of Modern Arts".
Carr had many exhibitions during the 1930's in prestigious locations such as the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Today, more than 200 of her works are part of the Vancouver Art Gallery's permanent collection. Carr has become an icon in Canada and an inspiration to women artists around the world