Emily Carr

by Lewis De Soto,
Penguin Canada,
Extraordinary Canadians Series
176 pages, $26.00

Had I never before seen a painting by Emily Carr, I believe that after reading Lewis De Soto’s book I would have instantly recognized it as the artist’s work.

By now the British Columbia painter’s legacy to Canadian art belongs in a Pantheon of those who dared : The Group of Seven, Tom Thomson, Paul-Emile Borduas, Louis Riopelle.But even in this distinguished company she stands alone as a depicter of Canada as forest and Canada as Aboriginal.

In 176 pages, De Soto, Man Booker nominee and a painter himself explains how, having lost his way in a deep Vancouver Island forest he first realized the significance of the spiritual experience Emily Carr had undergone when she began the forest and totem pole paintings which are her signature.

Beneath a deceptively modest exterior dwelt a great obsession to paint as an individual when so much of the Canadian art acceptable in her early days belonged to the “genteel” school growingly derided by impressionists, post-impressionists and cubists.

Carr’s art came to full expression beginning in 1927 when, at the age of 56 she met and befriended Lawren Harris and his fellow members of the Group of Seven. Though her works were never derivative of the Group’s adoption of theCanadian Ourdoors they strengthened her convictions and inspired her writings as well as her paintings.

De Soto shows us in this compact biography the manner in which a shining spirit and the courage to seek its fulfillment can lead to lasting renown–30–

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