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Emily Carr
(December 13, 1871 - March 2, 1945) Canada

Emily Carr

Painter, writer


Born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1871, the year British Columbia joined Canada, Emily Carr was the second-youngest of nine children born to English parents Richard and Emily Carr. The Carr children were raised on English tradition. Richard Carr, born in England, believed it was sensible to live on Vancouver Island, a colony of Great Britain, where he could practice English customs and continue his British citizenship. Emily was taught in the Presbyterian tradition, with Sunday morning prayers and evening Bible readings. Richard Carr called on one child per week to recite the sermon, and Emily consistently had trouble reciting it.

Emily's father encouraged her artistic inclinations, but it was only in 1891, after her parents' deaths, that she pursued her art seriously. Emily attended the San Francisco Art Institute for two years (1890-1892) before returning to Victoria. In 1899 Emily travelled to London where she studied at the Westminster School of Art. She travelled also to a rural art colony in St Ives, Cornwall, returning to British Columbia in 1905. Emily took a teaching position in Vancouver at the 'Ladies Art Club' that she held for no longer than a month. she was unpopular amongst her students due to her rude behaviour of smoking and cursing at them in class, and the students began to boycott her courses.

In 1898, at age 27, Emily made the first of several sketching and painting trips to aboriginal villages. She stayed in a village near Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island, home to the Nuu-chah-nulth people, then commonly known to English speaking people as 'Nootka'. Emily recalled that her time in Ucluelet made "a lasting impression on me", and her interest in indigenous life was reinforced by a trip to Alaska with her sister Alice, nine years later.

Over time Carr's work came to the attention of several influential and supportive people, including Marius Barbeau, a prominent ethnologist at the National Museum in Ottawa. Barbeau in turn persuaded Eric Brown, Director of Canada's National Gallery to visit Carr in 1927, and Brown invited Emily to exhibit her work as part of an exhibition on West Coast aboriginal art at the National Gallery. Emily sent 26 oil paintings east, along with samples of her pottery and rugs with indigenous designs. The exhibit, which also included works by Edwin Holgate and A.Y. Jackson, traveled to Toronto and Montreal.

Emily continued to travel throughout the late 1920s and 1930s away from Victoria. Her last trip north was in the summer of 1928, when she visited the Nass and Skeena Rivers, as well the Queen Charlottes. She also travelled to Friendly Cove and the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, and then up to Lillooet in 1933. Recognition of her work grew steadily, and her work was exhibited in London, Paris, Washington and Amsterdam, as well as major Canadian cities. Emily held her first solo show in eastern Canada in 1935 at the Women's Art Association of Canada gallery in Toronto.

It was at the exhibition on West Coast aboriginal art at the National Gallery in 1927 that Emily first met members of the Group of Seven, at that time Canada's most recognized modern painters. Lawren Harris of the Group became a particularly important support: "You are one of us," he told Emily, welcoming her into the ranks of Canada's leading modernists. The encounter ended the artistic isolation of Carr's previous 15 years leading to one of the most prolific periods, and the creation of many of her most recognizable works. Through her extensive correspondence with Harris, Carr also became aware of and studied northern European symbolism.

The Group influenced Emily's direction, and Lawren Harris in particular, not only by his work, but also by his belief in Theosophy, which Emily struggled to reconcile with her own conception of God. Emily's "distrust for institutional religion" pervades much of her art. She became influenced by Theosophic thought, like many artists of the time, and began to form a new vision of God as nature. She led a spiritual way of life, rejecting the Church and the religious institution, and painted raw landscapes found in the Canadian wilderness, mystically animated by a greater spirit.

Emily suffered a heart attack in 1937, and another in 1939, forcing her to move in with her sister Alice to recover. In 1940 Emily suffered a serious stroke, and in 1942 she had another heart attack. With her ability to travel curtailed, Emily's focus shifted from her painting to her writing. The editorial assistance of Emily's friend Ira Dilworth, a professor of English, enabled Emily to see her own first book, Klee Wyck, published in 1941. Emily was awarded the Governor-General's Award for non-fiction the same year for the work.

Emily Carr suffered her last heart attack and died at the James Bay Inn in her hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, shortly before she was to have been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of British Columbia. She is buried at Ross Bay Cemetery.


Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and http://www.ecuad.ca/

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