Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Emily Carr's Centered Compositions

Emily Carr (1871-1945) is one of Canada's most famous artists. And if you visit Victoria, British Columbia, her home town, and wander the old part of the city near the touristy harbor, it's hard to escape references to her. Wikipedia can still be hit-and-miss when it comes to being comprehensive, but its entry on Carr contains a good deal of useful detail about her and her career as a painter and writer.

The largest trove of Carr's painting seems to be in Vancouver, a city I find unappealing apart from its spectacular setting. So the Carr paintings I tend to encounter are in Victoria, whose art museum devotes a room to her work.

Carr received artistic training, plus she was friends with leading artists such as Lawren Harris (who I wrote about here) and Mark Tobey. Which is why it puzzles me that she often resorted to placing subjects of paintings at or near the center of the horizontal axis of her paintings. I suppose this can be explained through an analogy to a portrait painter placing his subject in a similar way. Still, the result is a little too static for my comfort.

Let's take a look at some examples.


Painting of a tree; don't have title or date for this

"Red Cedar" - 1933

"Heart of the Forest"

"Crying Totem" - 1938

"Indian Church" - 1929

1 comment:

Mike said...

Fascinating work. I wonder how much of her style was simply technique, and how much represented how she actually experienced the world.

In Heart of the Forest you can almost feel the wind in the trees. And the sweeping forms of the trees against the linear elements of the church are surprisingly effective in an art deco sort of way.