1871 - 1945
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Emily Carr was born in Victoria, British Colombia in 1871. After the death of her parents, she travelled to San Francisco where she attended the San Francisco Art Institute for two years (1890–1892). She later travelled to England to study. She attended Westminster School of Art in London followed by the Académie Colarossi in Paris. She returned to British Columbia to live in 1911.
Carr was inspired by the West Coast landscape that surrounded her and by the West Coast Native cultures. She made the first of several sketching and painting trips to aboriginal villages in 1898, visiting Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, home to the Nuu-chah-nulth people. In the summer of 1912 she traveled north, to the Haida G’waii and the Skeena River, where she documented the art of the Haida, Gitxsan and Tsimshian nations. She was inspired to paint the totem poles of the Kwakwaka’wakw, Haida, Tsimshian and Tlingit Nations. Emily wanted to record and preserve parts of the first peoples’ heritage, as she recognised its slow demise since the arrival of the Europeans.
One of the first artists to attempt to capture the spirit of Canada in a modern style, Carr was stylistically, influenced by the Post Impressionists and the Fauves. Unfortunately, her work remained unknown and unrecognized due to the cultural conservatism of Vancouver and Victoria at the time. Upset by the lack of interest, even derision afforded her work, she abandoned her passion for painting for fifteen years. To make ends meet, she made pottery, bred dogs, hooked and ran a boarding house.
In 1927 she met some of the members of the Group of Seven after being invited by the National Gallery of Canada to participate in an exhibition of ‘Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern’. Lawren Harris was especially supportive of her painting. After showing her work alongside the Group of Seven some years later, she gained the title of ‘The Mother of Modern Arts’.
In 1939 Carr suffered a serious heart-attack, and had to move in with her sister, Alice. She shifted her focus from painting to her writing, an occupation for which she possessed an equally uncommon talent. Her first book, Klee Wyck, was published in 1941 and gained her the Governor-General’s Award for non-fiction the following year. Carr also wrote ‘The Book of Small’ (1942), ‘The House of All Sorts’ (1944). Her works, ‘Growing Pains’, ‘Pause’, ‘The Heart of a Peacock’ and ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ were published posthumously.