Before her death in 1945, Emily Carr’s sizeable reputation as an artist, writer and creative innovator was nationally recognized with solo exhibitions, award winning publications and the admiration of her peers. In recent years Carr has gained international renown for her paintings and has been increasingly celebrated as a singular figure in Canadian culture.
A significant touring exhibition of works by Emily Carr, Nature and Spirit traces her evolution as an artist and includes many of the painter’s recognized masterpieces. The works span Carr’s early experiments with European modernism, to her powerful first encounters with Canadian First Nations art and culture, through her mature landscapes, to a final series of works from the period 1940-1942 when she returned to First Nations subjects.
Highlights of the exhibition can be seen in Carr’s early translations of European ideas to a Canadian context in a superb series of paintings made in 1912, including Totem Poles, Kitseukla. The major works of her maturity such as Zunoqua of the Cat Village, Big Raven, and The Little Pine form the central section of the exhibition and are complemented by a series of oil on paper works from the 1930s. These remarkably free studies of the landscape were painted directly from life and illustrate a more expressive and fluid style than in her works on canvas.
Finally, the exhibition presents a series of paintings from 1940-1942 when the artist returned to First Nations subjects with a new confidence and strength. Carr’s paintings from this period celebrate nature and landscape as living entities and convey her profound identification with the land of her birth.