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The Art of Emily Carr

by Doris Shadbolt

ISBN 0295966955 / 9780295966953 / 0-295-96695-5
Publisher Univ of Washington Pr
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

Author Doris Shadbolt's observation that Emily Carr "forced her will on the patterns of her life" could apply as well to the patterns of our perception. Somehow, the landscapes of coastal British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest are never quite the same after you've looked closely at Carr's paintings. The green foliage seems lusher, the sky more swirlingly vibrant, the forest deeps somehow more profound. Shadbolt offers an opportunity to submit to Carr's vision in The Art of Emily Carr, the most complete and authoritative book available on this extraordinary Canadian woman artist. In it Shadbolt, a curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery for 25 years who also edited The Collected Writings of Emily Carr, interweaves a comprehensive collection of 177 sketches, watercolours, and works in oil along with a series of detailed biographical essays and occasional passages from Carr's own writing.

Carr was born in Victoria in 1871, the year that British Columbia became a province, and remained on Vancouver Island until her death in 1945. Though Shadbolt insists that isolation was a defining, if often painful, fact of Carr's life as an artist, she also carefully traces the impact of Carr's regular excursions--to art schools in San Francisco and London, and on painting trips to Canada's East Coast, Alaska, and France. Though the 12 essays take up roughly half of The Art of Emily Carrs 200 pages, they function primarily to intensify our appreciation of the mostly full-colour, full-page reproductions of Carr's pulsing, earthy images. Shadbolt identifies Carr's two great painterly themes as "a unique and vanishing Indian culture, and a powerful coastal nature." The curvy solidity of Carr's totem pole paintings is impressive enough ("You must be absolutely honest and true in the depicting a totem for meaning is attached to every line," Carr has written), but for many it will be the rain forest paintings, their dark sensuous mingling of figure and ground, that will leave the most lasting impression. --Russell Prather [via]