Carr, Emily


CARR, Emily, artist, writer (b 13 Dec 1871, Victoria; d 2 Mar 1945, Victoria). She began her art studies in VICTORIA and in 1891 went to San Francisco to study painting at the California School of Design. After returning to Victoria 2 years later, she made a living teaching art. In the summer of 1899 she visited UCLUELET, where her sister Lizzie was becoming a missionary. This seems to be where her fascination with aboriginal subjects began, drawing the local NUU-CHAH-NULTH (Nootka), who named her Klee Wyck ("the one who laughs"). From 1899 to 1904 she was in England where she studied at the Westminster School of Art in London and where ill health led to a stay in a sanatorium. Once again back in BC, she moved to VANCOUVER in 1906 and lived there for the next few years teaching painting. She also resumed her summer visits to coastal villages. In 1907 she travelled to Alaska, where she was impressed by the TOTEM POLES at Sitka. An encounter with the American artist Theodore Richardson confirmed her desire to make aboriginal cultures the focus of her art. After a sojourn in Paris from 1910 to 1911 she returned to Vancouver to teach and show her paintings. However, she failed to gain support for her work and in 1913 she abandoned her attempts to be a professional artist; she returned to Victoria and began earning a living as a boardinghouse keeper, an occupation that preoccupied her for the next 15 years. In 1927 the National Gallery in Ottawa was preparing to mount a major exhibition of West Coast art. Eric Brown, the gallery director, visited Victoria and saw Carr's paintings; later he accepted some for the exhibit. In November she travelled east for the opening. In Toronto she met members of the Group of Seven and was so encouraged, particularly by Lawren HARRIS, that she resumed painting and making summer excursions along the coast. Under Harris's influence she began to concentrate less on aboriginal subjects and more on the brooding coastal landscape. During the 1930s she began to gain the reputation that has since moved her into the front ranks of Canadian painters. As her health declined following a heart attack in 1937, she turned to writing. Her first book of short non-fiction pieces, Klee Wyck, appeared in 1941 and won a GOV GEN'S LITERARY AWARD. It was followed by 2 more books published before her death—The Book of Small (1942) and The House of All Sorts (1944)—and 4 collections published posthumously: Growing Pains (1946), Pause (1953), The Heart of a Peacock (1953) and Hundreds and Thousands (1966).