Artist Profile

Emily Carr

Friday is Artist Profile Day!

Let’s meet Emily Carr

Big Raven made in 1931

Artist:  Emily Carr

Born: 1871 in Victoria, British Columbia Canada

Died: 1945 in Victoria, British Columbia Canada

Where they lived: Lived in Victoria British Columbia Canada but Emily also spent time in the U.S., as well as France and England.

Family: Her parents were British immigrants. Her father was a successful merchant. She was one of six kids (a younger brother and four older sisters). Her mother suffered from TB.

Background: She no serious artistic role models while growing up.

Professional background/training: Emily studied in France, England, and the United States before returning to Canada to paint the land around her.

After the death of her parents, she moved to study in San Francisco from 1889-95 at the California School of Design.

In 1899, she travelled to England where she was involved with the St. Ives group, Westminster School of Art in London, and with the Hubert von Herkomer’s private school.

In 1910, she moved to France where she was influenced by other artists including Frances Hodgkins. She studied at Académie Colarossi in Paris as well as other places throughout France. She returned to British Columbia after she spent this year in France.

Art Genre: Influenced by post-impressionism and Fauvism. She developed her own version of bold, colorful post-impressionist style of painting.

Art medium used: Started her career using ink and pencil to sketch before using watercolors. She then switched to oils.

Subject Matters: She interpreted the Pacific Northwest landscape and its Indigenous culture especially totem poles. The tree is her central focus and grounds her works. She believed trees possessed a life of their own. She was a champion for unnecessary tree cutting (unpopular belief with the logging industry in B.C.).

Famous Artwork:  Clearing, Cedar Sanctuary, Blue Sky, The Mountain, Totem Poles Kitseukla.

“Art is art, nature is nature, you cannot improve upon it . . . Pictures should be inspired by nature, but made in the soul of the artist; it is the soul of the individual that counts.”
(Emily Carr, 1912)

Other Information: She was influenced to the principles and practices of Asian Art.

She viewed art as having a spiritual connection between the artist and the ideal.

Emily wasn’t always able to make a living as an artist due to a conservative artistic makeup in British Columbia and she refused to conform so she gave up on her career as an artist for more than a decade.

She encountered members of the Group of Seven in 1927 after being invited to display her artwork at the National Gallery of Canada. She travelled to Ontario for this exhibition where she met Lawren Harris. The Group of Seven invited her to submit her work to their exhibition. They named her “The Mother of Modern Arts”.

In 1937, she suffered her first heart attack and started writing. In 1941 she won a Governor General’s Literary Award for her first book, Klee Wyck, which was a collection of twenty-one stories concerning her travels to coastal villages.


Vancouver Art Gallery

Art Canada Institute

Vancouver Art Gallery Biography

Canadian Encyclopedia

Emily Carr University

Art History Archive


1 thought on “Emily Carr”

  1. I recently discovered Carr’s work and really appreciate the bio and presentation of paintings here. I believe there’s a novel based on her life. I’ve been meaning to get it, but can’t remember the name.


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