Artist Biography

Emily Carr (1871-1945) was born in Victoria, British Columbia. Carr began drawing and sketching at a young age and decided to become an artist as a teenager. At age 18, she left Victoria to study art in San Francisco, London, and Paris.

For several years, Emily Carr continued to paint her bold “French style” and to explore the native culture of Western Canada. When she returned home from Europe, Carr made a six-week trip to native villages in northern B.C., where she produced many drawings and watercolours. Although her paintings were well received by local critics, Carr was not able to support herself by the sale of her art. To earn an income, she opened a boarding house, taught art classes, and drew cartoons for newspapers. She painted very little during the following 15 years.

It was not until Carr was over fifty that she began to receive recognition for her work. In 1927, she was invited by the National Gallery of Canada to participate in an exhibition of Western Canadian art in Ottawa. Here, she met Lawren Harris and other Group of Seven artists, who inspired her to redefine herself as an artist. Carr began painting canvases depicting abandoned Native villages and totem poles set in deep forests. A year later, she moved away from Native subjects and devoted herself to depictions of Nature. Her paintings expressed the dynamic beauty of Western Canadian forests, beaches, and skies.

In 1937, Carr suffered a severe heart attack and, with little energy left for painting, she began to devote her time to writing. During the last eight years of her life she published five books, including Klee Wyck, which won a Governor General’s award. Today, Emily Carr’s work fills galleries and libraries across Canada, and she continues to be recognized as one of Canada’s most talented artists.