“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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.