Object Name: Painting
Artist/Maker/Manufacturer/Founder: Emily Carr
Material/Medium/Support: Oil on Cardboard, Mounted on Masonite
Earliest Production Date and Latest Production Date: 1913
Dimension: 95.3 x 64.8 cm
Accession # 40448
Institution Name: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Copyright: Gift of Bryan Adams, December 2000
In July of 1912, British Columbian artist Emily Carr embarked on a six-week sketching trip that took her from Vancouver to Alert Bay. When she came home, she painted the landscapes and the villages she had seen. Carr’s palette reflected the local colours, but also a new style inspired by the painters she had recently trained with in France. In this painting, she used short brushstrokes to apply warm yellows and browns next to cool blues and greys – creating an illusion of depth and a dramatic sense of atmosphere. The Welcome Man features a darkly silhouetted totem pole from a village at Alert Bay. It is framed against the yellow light of a setting sun. The outstretched arms welcome guests to the potlatch, a traditional and ceremonial celebration for West Coast First Nations communities. Carr had a life-long interest in depicting the landscapes of the West Coast. This painting demonstrates her creative blend of a documentary approach with an expressive artistic style.
Carr quickly abandoned the rich colouring of her French paintings for a more sober palette appropriate to her documentary purpose. While always sensitive to the particular local colour, be it the warm brown tones of the inland poles or the pearly grey tones of the sun-bleached and wind-buffeted poles of the islands, Carr’s paintings show a remarkable range of treatment in colour, line, and structure, indicative of the rapidity of her growth as an artist and of her total commitment to her work. In her 1913 lecture on totem poles, Carr stressed the different functions of the poles, such as this figure erected to welcome guests to a potlatch or other ceremony.
EMILY CARR’S TOTEMS: FROM DOCUMENTATION TO PERSONAL EXPRESSION
M.A., Art History, Concordia University
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