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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Emily Carr, extraordinary Canadian artist

emily carr paintingSeveral years ago I ran across the art of Emily Carr at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It stopped me in my tracks. Her work is powerful and spiritual and her Northwestern subject matter is uniquely hers in the same way that Georgia O'Keeffe's Southwestern icons belong to O'Keeffe. The two were near-contemporaries, Emily being the older. Apparently they met once briefly when Carr visited an exhibit of O'Keeffe's paintings in the U.S. Like O'Keeffe, Carr was an emerging woman artist in a man's world, but unlike O'Keeffe, Carr had no Stieglitz to support and promote her. The daunting distance between her home in British Columbia and the art centers in the Eastern provinces created great difficulties, as well.

I've often come across references to Carr's writings and I'm finally getting around to reading her works. She was every bit as expressive a writer as she was a painter. Her writing is down-to-earth and yet somehow lyrical and poetic. There are a number of small volumes published, but I bought a used copy of The Complete Writings of Emily Carr. The book isn't an autobiography in the usual sense. Rather each volume of stories is a collection of reminiscences of various experiences and times in her life and her acute observations from childhood throughout her life. For more information on Emily Carr, check out the entry at Wikipedia Another good book is Doris Shadbolt's The Art of Emily Carr.

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Blogger Joyce said...

It is so nice that you met our Emily Carr. She was an eccentric woman but surely dedicated to her art. She was so poor that she couldn't afford archival material and lot of her work is now very fragile. She just had to paint and used whatever was available.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Nita said...

Joyce--It's astonishing to me that awareness of Canadian artists seems to stop at the border. Emily Carr and the Group of Seven are the most obvious. There are so many fine contemporary Canadian artists, as well.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

Have you read "The Forest Lover" by Susan Vreeland? I hate to admit that that was my first introduction to Emily Carr's work, although I was familiar with the Group of Seven because of some references to Clarence Gagnon and his illustrations for the book "Maria Chapdelaine." These artists are wonderful and it's a crime that so few people south of the border are aware of them.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Fredericks said...

I was really surprised to read the same paragraph on your blog that I used on mine....it is a passage on creativity. I read it in her newly published journals, Hundreds and Thousands.

Joyce may find this of interest, that Emily later in her life, after she was discovered was quite successful financially. In Hundreds of Thousands, she tells of receiving a cheque for $1,050 and used $500 to buy a house.

A great site here Nita. I hope you are well, for it is sad to see that you have ended your work on it.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Nita said...

Fredericks--Hundreds and Thousands was published in 1966. I read it in The Complete Writings of Emily Carr, a fantastic collection. My copy of the book is flagged with dozens of Post-its so I can pick up inspiration at a whim.

Why do you think I've quit my blog? I don't have time to post daily right now, but I still put entries up whenever I can. Same for my Web site.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Tila Kellman said...

You might enjoy the best recent book on Emily Carr, Unsettling Encounters by Gerta Moray, UBC/University of Washington Press, 2006, with 130+ pp of COLOUR plates (plus more b x w).

2:28 PM  

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