Emily Carr’s landscape painting of a beach in British Columbia.

Shoreline, 1936, beach at the foot of Beacon Hill Cliffs with Clover Point in the distance.

Emily Carr (1871-1945)

1966.2.1
© 2006, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Gift of Mrs. H.P. de Pencier. All Rights Reserved.


"More than ever was I convinced that the old way of seeing was inadequate to express this big country of ours, her depth, her height, her unbounded wideness, silences too strong to be broken - nor could ten million cameras, through their mechanical boxes, ever show real Canada. It had to be sensed, passed through live minds, sensed and loved."1
"More than ever was I convinced that the old way of seeing was inadequate to express this big country of ours, her depth, her height, her unbounded wideness, silences too strong to be broken - nor could ten million cameras, through their mechanical boxes, ever show real Canada. It had to be sensed, passed through live minds, sensed and loved."1
1 Emily Carr, Growing Pains: The Autobiography of Emily Carr (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1966) 228.
© 1966, Clarke, Irwin. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline epitomizes Carr's triumph over both personal and artistic obstacles - a triumph achieved especially late in life, during the late 1920s and 1930s. As in many works from her mature period, she has positioned herself alone on a narrow beach. Water, air, and land sweep around her in broad rhythms while an unearthly light pulsates overhead. The artist's presence is felt intensely throughout, yet her energy appears indistinguishable from the energy of nature itself. Every brush stroke expresses a joy in the harmony of all living things.1
Shoreline epitomizes Carr's triumph over both personal and artistic obstacles - a triumph achieved especially late in life, during the late 1920s and 1930s. As in many works from her mature period, she has positioned herself alone on a narrow beach. Water, air, and land sweep around her in broad rhythms while an unearthly light pulsates overhead. The artist's presence is felt intensely throughout, yet her energy appears indistinguishable from the energy of nature itself. Every brush stroke expresses a joy in the harmony of all living things.1

1 David Wistow, "Emily Carr," The McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg: The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1989) 133.


© 1989, McMichael Canadian Art Collection. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Carr with her Dog, 1930

Emily Carr with her Dog, 1930

Unknown

© Collection M.O. Hammond, Library and Archives Canada. All Rights Reserved.


Ruggedly individualistic, resourceful, adventuresome, indomitable: these character traits convey at least part of the complex personality of Canada's most remarkable West Coast painter, Emily Carr. After the death of both parents when she was a teenager, Carr left Victoria, [British Columbia] in 1890 for art studies in San Francisco, returning after three years. In 1898, before further studies in England, she made the first of several trips into the British Columbia wilderness, driven by a curiosity about Northwest Coast [First Nations] and their many villages, with their carved and painted houses and totem poles. Initially Carr concentrated on figure and portrait studies, but eventually she turned her attention almost exclusively to the monumental native carvings.

After 1910…

After 1910, [Carr’s] paintings are brilliantly coloured and brushed - evidence of her stay in France and her adoption of up-to-date European artistic modes. In 1913 she organized an exhibition in Vancouver of her works devoted to [First Nations] subjects. Despite some favourable response, the exhibition did little to satisfy Carr’s search for recognition, and the next Read More
Ruggedly individualistic, resourceful, adventuresome, indomitable: these character traits convey at least part of the complex personality of Canada's most remarkable West Coast painter, Emily Carr. After the death of both parents when she was a teenager, Carr left Victoria, [British Columbia] in 1890 for art studies in San Francisco, returning after three years. In 1898, before further studies in England, she made the first of several trips into the British Columbia wilderness, driven by a curiosity about Northwest Coast [First Nations] and their many villages, with their carved and painted houses and totem poles. Initially Carr concentrated on figure and portrait studies, but eventually she turned her attention almost exclusively to the monumental native carvings.

After 1910…

After 1910, [Carr’s] paintings are brilliantly coloured and brushed - evidence of her stay in France and her adoption of up-to-date European artistic modes. In 1913 she organized an exhibition in Vancouver of her works devoted to [First Nations] subjects. Despite some favourable response, the exhibition did little to satisfy Carr’s search for recognition, and the next fifteen years proved unfruitful. She painted little and struggled just to survive.

Meeting the Group…

In 1927 an event dramatically altered her life. Carr was invited to participate in an exhibition of Northwest Coast [First Nations] art at the National Gallery [of Canada]. Her meeting with members of the Group of Seven, particularly Lawren Harris, rekindled her urge to paint. She was thrilled by their support and encouragement (Harris had said, “you are one of us”) and by their similar struggles to comprehend the immense forces of nature and the spiritual world.

Carr painted and wrote passionately over the next decade and half until her death. Her images of the West Coast quiver with an unheralded expressive force, sometimes menacing, sometimes exhilarating. She had at last discovered her true creative self when she was nearly sixty.1

1David Wistow, "Emily Carr," The McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg: The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1989) 133.


© 2006, McMichael Canadian Art Collection. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Carr's 1910 trip to Paris where she was exposed to and affected by a new trend in European art. From: “Modern Art in Canada – The Beginnings” Modern and Abstract Painting in Canada, 1991

British Columbia painter, Emily Carr. She left for Paris in 1910 with a specific goal: "I did not care a hoot about Paris history," she said. "I wanted now to find out what this new art was about." In Paris, she realized that works of art had gone beyond simple description. She was excited by what she saw, and her own style began to change. She had found that pure colour and uncomplicated form helped her approach the totality of the subject, and made it easier to express subjective ideas. Returning to British Columbia, she continued along these lines. In “War Canoes”, the expressive brushwork, free use of colour, and simple yet sinuous lines emphasize the emotive force of the superb Indian war canoes. In her painted visions of the elementary forces of nature, her expressive power reached new heights.

National Film Board of Canada/National Gallery of Canada
Sharona Adamowicz-Clements

© 1991, Courtesy NFB/National Gallery of Canada


Learning Objectives

Emily Carr Shoreline Learning Object is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives:

  • Learn about the artist and her contribution to Canadian art;
  • Explore themes in Canadian history and cultural heritage;
  • Establish links between art and cultural identity;
  • Learn about an important period in Canadian art and history, and its effect on the national identity;
  • Discuss and analyze a work of art using principles of design and other artistic terminology, and classify a work of art by period, style, and subject matter;
  • Research, identify, and describe visual characteristics, themes, and ideas in art; and
  • Identify the skills required in various visual arts and art-related careers.

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