Emily Carr

“Dear trees, we don’t stop half enough to love and admire them.”

This is a quote by Canadian artist Emily Carr. We learned about her while in Victoria and had the chance to see many of her works of art.

Zoe and I with a statue of Emily Carr

Zoe and I with a statue of Emily Carr

Emily Carr was born December 13, 1871 in Victoria, British Columbia. She lived in a big house with her parents and siblings. Even as a child, Emily showed a lot of potential as an artist, but her father was the only one to support her. Eventually when she was older, she went to London for 6 years to study art. Her painting style was really similar to other famous European artists because they had been taught the same techniques.

Later on when she was 39, she went to Paris to another art school. Her visit to France really changed her painting style. She learned to use a lot of colour in her paintings and paint how she thought something should look like other famous Impressionists. Unfortunately, very few people appreciated this style and not many bought her paintings.

One of her paintings influenced by her time in Paris

One of her paintings influenced by her time in Paris

Her next trip was to Alaska with her sister Alice. Here she had her first encounter with Natives living the traditional way. Emily was fascinated by their culture and painted many things she saw, such as the totem poles. The Carr family had Native staff working in their house and Emily was always interested in them. Her work became focused on Native life. She had a good relationship with them and received the name “Klee Wyck” or “laughing one”.

After some time, Emily met Lawren Harris from the Group of Seven. He convinced her to stop copying peoples art (totem poles) and develop her own style.  Emily really enjoyed nature so she began painting trees.

Along with painting, Emily Carr also wrote many books about her life experiences.

– Book of Small (her life growing up)
– Klee Wyck (her time with the Natives)
– The House of All Sorts
– Growing Pains
– This and That
– Hundreds and Thousands

A few of her book

A few of her book

Her book “House of All Sorts” explains the time where Emily ran a boarding house to fund her painting. She didn’t like any of her tenants and wrote all about them in her book. As she got older, Emily became quite eccentric and didn’t like/trust most people. She was single her whole life and wore frumpy looking clothing.

A painting of Emily in her later years

A painting of Emily in her later years

We had the chance to visit the Emily Carr House, which is where Emily grew up. Each room has artifacts from the time and most are original. During our tour, we also did a scavenger hunt where we looked for specific items located around the house, like an old copper teapot and an oil lamp. We also watched a movie called “Bone Wind Fire” which told the stories of female artists Georgia O’Keefe, Emily Carr, and Frida Kahlo. It shared their thoughts with the artists’ own words, which made the movie very authentic.

The Emily Carr House

The Emily Carr House

We also went through the Art Gallery of Victoria where we saw a collection of Emily Carr’s art. The gallery has the largest number of her paintings in the world. While we were there, half of her Native paintings were on exhibit at another gallery.

The art gallery sign

The art gallery building

The art gallery building

An interesting thing we learned was since Carr didn’t make a lot of money from her paintings she had to be creative with her art supplies. Instead of oil paints, she used house paint thinned with gasoline and used butcher paper instead of a canvas.

The orange colour in the painting comes from the butcher paper

The orange colour in the painting comes from the butcher paper

Emily Carr’s paintings were beautiful and none of us ever realized how detailed her paintings were until we saw them in person. We even purchased a print so we can bring one home with us.

My favourite painting of hers is called “Totem Walk at Sitka”. Sitka is a city in Alaska where Emily Carr observed the Native tribes in the area. I like this painting because the colours of the totem poles stand out between the trees and the curved path makes the viewer curious as to where it leads.  The totem poles also remind me of the ones we saw at the Totem Bight park.

Totem Walk at Sitka

Totem Walk at Sitka

It was cool learning about Emily Carr, especially because she is a Canadian artist. I loved her paintings and I’m glad I had the chance to see her house and works of art.

8 thoughts on “Emily Carr”

  1. Herta Park says:

    Isn’t it sad how artists can go their entire lives and be poor, and athletes get paid SO much!? But that is a discussion for another time.
    I did not know that she was such a pretty young woman. Your backstory of her has been most informative. There must be many of her pieces now around as there are galleries all over Canada that claim works of hers. Maybe they too, are prints?

    1. Mikhaila says:

      Hi Herta,

      This was the first time I have ever seen a picture of her, so it was really neat. She has an interesting story and I hope to see more of her paintings in the future.

  2. Terry Gelinas says:

    You mentioned that some of her paintings are at another gallery. Yes, there is a special Emily Carr exhibit here at the AGO – just saw it this past weekend. Love her work! Part of general admission price – not sure how long it will run….

    1. Mikhaila says:

      Hello Terry,

      I hope it will still be running when we come back. I would love to see more of her work.

  3. Baba says:

    Hi Mikhaila,
    This was a very enjoyable and informative blog! I really enjoyed seeing her Art Work and the history of her life as well as the cute stories. Thanks for sharing. Love, Baba

    1. Mikhaila says:

      Hi Baba,

      I really enjoyed learning about Emily Carr. She was a neat artist and an interesting Canadian.

  4. Oma says:

    Hi, Mikhaila, your posting is very informative and I enjoyed reading about Emily Carr’s life very much. I didn’t know that she travelled so extensively. She was an amazing painter and woman, especially considering the era she lived in. I was always impressed that she did “her own thing”. The “Totem Walk” is really amazing and I can understand that you like it. Thanks for sharing. Love to all

    1. Mikhaila says:

      Hello Oma,

      Emily Carr certainly was an interesting woman. I hadn’t seen any of her paintings before so I’m glad I was able to while in Victoria.

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