Artwork by Emily Carr,  Forest Interior
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Consignor Canadian Fine Art
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

Lot #51

Emily Carr
Forest Interior

oil on canvas, laid down on board
signed lower right
24.75 x 15 ins ( 62.9 x 38.1 cms )

Estimated: $250,000.00 - $350,000.00

The Art Emporium, Vancouver
Private Collection, Vancouver
Maria Tippett, Emily Carr: A Biography, Markham, Ontario, 1982, pages 167, 170 and 179-86
Doris Shadbolt, The Art of Emily Carr, Toronto, 1979, pages 62, 70 and 76
One of the most iconic and influential artists of Canadian history, Emily Carr painted landscape compositions that demonstrate her personal interpretation and spiritual connection with the British Columbian forest. Following a noteworthy visit to Toronto in 1927, where she met members of the Group of Seven, Carr began corresponding with Lawren Harris. The main theme of her work at the time was Indigenous villages and the nature that surrounded them. Carr took Harris’ suggestion in 1929 to leave this subject matter to express the spirit of British Columbia in its exotic landscapes. She continued to paint totem poles into the early 1930s, and returned to them a few years before she died, but by 1929 she had become, through Harris’ encouragement, more deeply interested in the woods, where she was ‘finding something that was peculiarly my own.’ “Forest Interior” serves as an exemplary depiction of the British Columbian forest that fascinated Carr, and showcases her increasingly stylized painterly approach from 1929-31.

In May of 1929, Carr embarked on excursions to the forest in Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island. There, she began to paint increasingly stylized and simplified trees. Maria Tippett describes these works: “Cedars swept and drooped; pines thrust their boughs stiffly towards the sky; Douglas firs balanced their foliage on the pinnacle of their tall stick-like trunks; while other trees, less recognizable, were merely drawn as triangles, or faded into zig-zagging lines.” Eager for another chance to explore the dense woods of the west coast, the artist left Victoria again in mid-August to Port Renfrew. Carr increasingly pushed the limits of form and design in depicting trees, which she reduced to geometric shapes. This new cubist tendency in her compositions was a result of reading modern art books she borrowed from the library, as well as advice from Lawren Harris and her friend Mark Tobey, an American artist who stayed at her studio several times. Tobey had told her that her work was too monotonous and lacking in contrasts. She herself complained to Harris that it was “dull, heavy, and static.” Tippet writes that reading books by Mary Cecil Allen and A.M. Berry “not only reinforced her previous ideas of volume and form, of tension and structure, of reducing an object to its barest essence in order to reveal its spirit, and of using nature as a source for that inspiration; the books also impressed on her the concept of rhythm, of the unity of part to whole, of balance and transition in movement and colour.” During the autumn of 1929, Lawren Harris stressed the importance of design to her: “You can in one sense, in one part of you, forget the spirit - it is innate in you - but push the forms to the limit in volume, plasticity, and precision and relationships in one unified, functioning greater form which is the picture... the last picture you sent me shows a greater concern for precision of design but the form could be intensified, given even more power.”

In “Forest Interior”, four tall tree trunks are simplified into brown columns and emerge from a ground of intersecting patches of varying shades of green, with a background of heavily abstracted silhouettes of fir trees. The artist prioritized form and design over a literal interpretation of her subject in this work, presenting a zoomed- in view of the forest interior, where treetops are cropped by the upper edge of the canvas. Shadbolt remarks that Carr was highly productive during these three years and “the work is the most formal and the
most designed of her career [...] Her formulae for handling forest and undergrowth vary from cubistically cut and chiselled shapes to moulded and overlapping plastic slabs of green to swirling heavy streams and ropes of growth, but they all belong to a concept of nature that is, at this time, still, silent, mysterious and often forbidding.”

Carr’s many sketching trips in the forest served a secondary purpose, in addition to an artistic one: to reach a level of consciousness where she was at one with God and nature. She deepened her relationship with God through nature, which enabled her to create art through his inspiration. The artist experimented with a variety of philosophies and religions during these years, including the ‘Theosophy’ preferred by Harris, though never officially aligned with a particular movement. Although Emily Carr was enamoured with the British Columbian forest and the experience of being alone in nature, she did not turn her back on humans and the art world completely. In 1930 she travelled to Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal to participate in a number of group exhibitions, where she received positive reviews and encouragement from friends, artists, and critics across Canada. In December 1931 Carr sent six paintings to Lawren Harris for inclusion in the Group of Seven’s annual show at the Art Gallery of Toronto. Four of the works were of forest interiors painted during the past year. Harris’ response was encouraging and perceptive. “It’s a thrilling attempt you have’re beginning a deeper search into the fundamental life in trees and forest and nature in the deepest, most secret moods and meanings.”
Sale Date: May 28th 2019

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Consignor Canadian Fine Art
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

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Emily Carr
(1871 - 1945) Canadian Group of Painters

Carr was raised as the youngest of three sisters in a traditional Anglo-Saxon household in Victoria, B.C.. Despite Carr's notoriety for being a strong-willed eccentric, she gained the respect and admiration of Group of Seven members, especially Lawren Harris. Carr and Harris exchanged letters often and she felt he was one of the only people who she could speak freely with about art, nationalism, theosophy and spirituality. Along with several members of the Group of Seven, Carr was one of the founding members of the Canadian Group of Painters.

Educated at the San Francisco School of Art (1889-1895), Westminster School of Art in London (1899-1904), and in Paris (1910-11), Carr introduced French Modernism to British Columbia. The fauvist aesthetic Carr had adopted while abroad was far from the traditional landscape paintings that dominated the western Canadian art scene at the time. Her use of bright colours and her disinterest in detail was so new to Victoria that she did not gain much local appreciation until her later years. Despite her lukewarm praise at home, Carr received generous reviews in Paris and this kept her motivated. English teacher Ira Dilworth, American abstract painter Mark Tobey, and art dealer Max Stern were some of Carr's key supporters and who recognized her contribution to the Canadian art scene. Eventually, the inspiration she drew from European avant-gardism melded with the graphic simplicity and symbolism of Native American totems to create some of her best known artworks.