Emily Carr

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Canada’s art scene is incomplete without the mention of its local hero and icon – Emily Carr. Not many artists can boast about having universities (Emily Carr University of Art & Design) or schools named after them. For Canadians Emily Carr is a national treasure and her legacy is well kept alive to this day. The Vancouver Art Gallery call Emily Carr ‘the most important BC artist of her generation’ and she remains a strong influence to many aspiring artists not only in Canada but worldwide. It took 70 years for Carr’s first exhibition to be shown in London at the Dulwich Picture Gallery; the exhibition was an eye opener to those who had never heard of Carr’s work. The Guardian called Carr ‘Canada’s best kept secret.’ Other than her artistic genius, Carr also established a name for herself as a glorious writer. Both her paintings and writing have captured the hearts of many.

Born in 1871 in British Columbia, Canada to English immigrants Carr grew up in a very strict household. Carr was orphaned at a young age and was raised by guardians; it took a lot of convincing and determination from Carr to convince them to let her study art in San Francisco. This steely determination and tenacity was also present in Carr’s work, but instead of having a hard undertone in her paintings they were always on the inspirational note. Much of Carr’s work is a dedication to her life in Canada and her work clearly reflects it. Most of Carr’s paintings and writing are based on landscapes, aboriginal themes, forests. A move to Paris prompted her to experiment with more vibrant colors and imagery. Carr was one of the first painters who painted the West Coast in Canada and her paintings are considered as iconic imagery now. Carr’s work show’s her as a painter who got better with time; her work blossomed and developed a new life of its own. Carr’s painting Autumn in France is a superb display of her skills. The vast and grand landscape is there but the way Carr has managed to capture the height and magnitude of the mountains is extraordinary. Carr didn’t have any artists she looked up to or had inspiration for, which made her develop her own style of painting. At the end you had an artist whose work was her own and reflected what she saw. Carr’s originality and strength became paramount in establishing her as an artist to be reckoned with.

Carr’s unique style can be seen in her two masterpieces Kitwancool and Odds & Ends. In Kitwancool Carr goes back to her roots of telling stories of the natives, the painting is rich shades of blue background with the native statues adorning in straight lines. Even though there are many lines of statues Carr’s has painted so carefully that every statue’s face in distinguishable and has its own voice. In Odds and Ends, the subject matter in question are trees. This painting is a good example of Carr playing around with her imagination; each tree in the painting has a disjointed angle to itself. Carr played around with a different canvas surface for this painting and the result was marvellous. Her harsh upbringing and succeeding as an artist in the face of adversity made her a powerful figure in the ‘women movement.’

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