Artwork by Emily Carr,  Logged Land

Emily Carr
Logged Land

oil on paper laid on canvas
signed “M.E. Carr” lower right; signed and titled on a label on the reverse
23 x 34.75 ins ( 58.4 x 88.3 cms )

Sold for $377,600.00
Sale date: May 29th 2018

Provenance:
Acquired directly from the artist by Mr. Tillman, British Columbia
By descent to Ursala Tillman, San Francisco
Private Collection, Winnipeg
Loch Mayberry Gallery, Winnipeg
Private Collection, Edmonton
Mayberry Fine Art, Winnipeg
Private Collection
Literature:
Maria Tippett, Emily Carr: A Biography, Markham, Ontario, 1982, pages 167, 186-88, and 226-30
Doris Shadbolt, The Art of Emily Carr, Toronto, 1979, page 112
Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr, Toronto, 1966, pages 132-33
One of the most iconic and influential artists of Canadian history, Emily Carr painted landscape compositions that demonstrate her personal interpretation and spiritual connection with the British Columbian forest. “Logged Land” showcases the painter’s success in her new oil on paper medium of the 1930s, which she believed helped her achieve a unity with God, nature, and painting.

Carr embarked on a noteworthy trip to Eastern Canada in 1927. First she visited Ottawa, to see her paintings included in the Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, followed by Toronto, where she met members of the Group of Seven and began what would become a lifelong correspondence with Lawren Harris. The main theme of her work at the time was Indigenous villages and the nature that surrounded them. Carr took Harris’ suggestion in 1929 to leave this subject matter to express the spirit of British Columbia in the exotic forest and beach landscapes of the island and coast.

In the following decade, Emily Carr set out on many sketching trips in the woods, seeking to reach a level of consciousness where she was at one with God and nature. The artist became increasingly spiritual in the 1930s, which influenced her stylistic interpretation of the landscape. She deepened her relationship with God through nature, which enabled her to create art through his inspiration. The artist experimented with a variety of philosophies and religions during these years, including the ‘Theosophy’ preferred by Harris, though never officially aligned with a particular movement.

“Logged Land” was painted during one of Carr’s many ‘spiritual’ sketching excursions throughout British Columbia. In this oil on paper work, the painter achieved her goal to venture beyond the traditional 19th and early 20th century artistic vision of the forest. In the flowing waves of piercing blue sky and white clouds, Carr renders the composition with emotion and energy, and a more personal vision. She employs her signature Fauvist palette which she brought to British Columbia from Europe. In the early 1930s, the artist made a significant change in her sketching method by adopting the new medium of oil on paper. Carr wanted to combine the spontaneity of watercolour sketching with the intensity of oil pigments, and she found this to be possible by diluting oil paint with generous amounts of turpentine and applying the mixture to Manila paper. She was able to attain the structure of oil paint with this medium as well as the delicacy of watercolour. It also dried immediately, was easy to layer pigments, and retained its colour intensity - all providing additional conveniency. Carr was excited by this discovery; she described the new medium in a letter to Eric Brown, who had mistaken one of the sketches for a watercolour: “it is a kind of sketchy medium I have used for the last three or four years. Oil paint used thin with gasoline on paper… it is inexpensive, light to carry and allows great freedom of thought and action. Woods and skies out west are big. You can’t squeeze them down.”

Carr’s oil on paper works, such as “Logged Land” constitute a significant portion of her work from 1932 onward. This painting exemplifies the freshness that Carr was able to obtain in this new medium of painting en plein air. The artist remarked that she learned about ‘freedom and direction’ from her oil on paper medium; she was entering into ‘the life of the trees’ and understanding ‘their language, unspoken, unwritten talk.’

Many of Emily Carr’s mature works reveal her growing anxiety about the environmental impact of industry on British Columbia's landscape. Her paintings often reflected her concern over industrial logging, its ecological effects and its intrusion on the lives of Indigenous People. In “Logged Land”, while we are captivated by the majestic blue sky and treetops, we are also gently reminded of the adverse effects of deforestation by the numerous tree stumps scattered across the ground.

Although Emily Carr was enamoured with the British Columbian forest and the experience of being alone in nature, she did not turn her back on humans and the art world completely. She continued to exhibit with the local art societies in Victoria and Vancouver throughout the 1930s. The Women’s Art Association of Toronto held a solo exhibition of Carr’s oil on paper landscapes in December 1935. The exhibition received many visitors and laudatory reviews of her preferred new medium. Lawren Harris praised her oil on paper works and her increasingly expressive and reductive style. He encouraged Carr to pursue the approach further into complete abstraction, but she replied in a letter that doing this would cause her to lose touch with nature. Carr maintained a lifelong dedication to expressing the spirit and sublime nature of British Columbia.

Ursala Tillman’s father, a Swedish immigrant who worked as a logger in northern British Columbia during the 1930s, acquired “Logged Land” and a second painting directly from Emily Carr. The family would later move to the United States, settling in San Francisco.

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Emily Carr
(1871 - 1945) Canadian Group of Painters

Born in Victoria, B.C. She was educated there until she was 16. Her parents dies before she was 14 and her eldest sister managed the home. Rebellious against her sister's authority she persuaded the family guardian to allow her the study art in San Francisco. About 1888 she went to the San Francisco School of Art and returned to Victoria about 1895 where she set up a studio in a renovated barn behind her home. There she painted and taught art. In 1897 she travelled to Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, with a missionary friend, where she sketched an Indian village for the first time, but not consciously seeking Indigenous motifs. In her autobiography she wrote, “...to paint the Western forest did not occur to me...I nibbled at silhouetted edges...Unknowingly I was storing...my working ideas against the time when I should be ready to use material.”

In Victoria, she had saved enough money through teaching to study in England at the Westminister School of Art, and landscape under Julius Olsson at St. Ives, and landscape under John Whitely at the Meadows Studio, Bushey. Visiting London she took ill and spent 18 months convalescing a the East Anglia Sanatorium which prompted her book “Pause”. She returned to Victoria in 1904 and was invited to Vancouver to supervise classes of the Ladies' Art Club of Vancouver. Too serious in her teaching and too unsophisticated for the members' liking, Emily was dismissed after a month. She conducted classes for children in Vancouver which were successful. This brought the Ladies' Art Club President to suggest amalgamation of the two groups, but Emily, understandably, refused. That summer she took a pleasure trip to Alaska with her sister and while she was sketching in Sitka, an American artist seeing her work encouraged her to pursue the Indigenous motif in her own style.

It was after this trip that she decided to paint totem poles in their natural settings. Each summer she returned to the Northern coast of B.C. And did many canvases during that five year period (c. 1905-1910). In 1910 having saved enough money to go abroad, she studied in France at the Colorossi where criticisms were given only in French; finding this too difficult to follow she changed to another studio but took ill and travelled to Sweden for a rest. Returning to France a few months later she studied under Harry Gibb both at Cressey-en-Bri and at Brittany. Gibb encouraged individuality and originality in her work and two of her canvases were hung in the Salon d'Automne. Her work gained brightness characteristic of the Fauves which Gibb himself followed. She studied briefly under an “Australian” woman water colourist at Concarneau, later thought to be New Zealand artist Frances Hodgkins by D.W. Buchanan.

She returned to Victoria and to Vancouver in 1912 where she held an exhibition of her French paintings. They were rejected by everyone. Her new style lost her teaching opportunities but her spirit at this point was not broken for she wrote, “In spite of all the insult and scorn shown to my new work I was not ashamed of it...it had brighter, cleaner colour, simpler form, more intensity.”

With so few pupils she spent more time painting large canvases from her earlier Indigenous village sketches. Finally in 1913 with no pupils, no market for her work, she was forced to return to Victoria. She built an apartment house (The House of All Sorts) from family land and borrowed money. She took in roomers but was not able to make ends meet. In that period she raised 350 Old English Bobtail Sheep-dogs and with her own crude kiln in her back yard made pottery, sometimes in batches of 500 pieces which she decorated with Indigenous designs. These were very much sought after by tourists. She wrote, “...I ornamented my pottery with Indian designs- that was why the tourists bought it...Because my stuff sold, other potters followed my lead and, knowing nothing of Indian Art, falsified it. This made me very angry. I loved handling the smooth clay. I loved the beautiful Indian designs, but I was happy about using Indian design on material for which it was not intended...”

Running a rooming house, raising dogs, and making pottery kept Emily from painting for about 15 years. It was not until Marius Barbeau in 1921 learned of her work from his Indigenous interpreter and brought it to the attention of Eric Brown, National Gallery of Canada Director, (although Mortimer Lamb had also shown interest in her work) that she became known to the rest of Canada. It was Brown who told her of the Group of Seven and F. B. Housser's book “Canadian Art Movement” which she bought and read from cover to cover. She loaned 50 of her paintings for the West Coast Indian Art exhibit organized by the National Gallery in 1927 and her work was well received. Travelling East for the opening, she visited A.Y. Jackson, J.E.H. MacDonald, and Lawren Harris in Toronto hanving read of their work in Housser's book. Heading West after the opening, she stopped at Toronto again to see Lawren Harris who became the inspiration and motivation in her development as a painter.

A change of style soon followed her visit East, notably with the canvas “Blunden Harbour” which Dr. Hubbard considers her most monumental of this period. Although Harris influenced her, he never tried to mould her; he encourages her individuality and eventually prompted her to seek liberation from the dominant Indigenous motif in her work. She turned to the forests of B.C. Using oil-on-paper in a powerful spiral like style described by Dr. Hubbard as an expression of “immense fertility of the earth and the irresistible force of nature.” Emily Carr travelled East several times as an invited contributor to the Group of Seven shows and on one occasion visited New York where she viewed works of American artists. By 1943 however, William Colgate notes in his book, “Her recent painting...is characterized by an eccentricity of design and a cloudiness of colour which stand in marked contrast to her earlier work...Whatever the cause, her painting has indubitably suffered because of it.” Eleven years later, on reviewing her water colour work, Paul Duval wrote, “She did not hesitate to use whatever means necessary to attain her desired end. Some passages in her painting have a scrubbed look, others are delicately washed in, and there are frequent moments when her brush slashed the appear with the marks of a lash. System or non, Emily Carr registered souvenirs of her love of the Pacific Coast which are as affecting as any created in Canada.”

Emily Carr sold her apartment home in 1936 and turned to full time painting and writing. Through a friend, Ira Dilworth learned of her work and became her literary executive. He had her stories read over the BCB at Vancouver and later took her manuscripts to the Oxford University Press in Toronto. “Klee Wyck” was published in 1941 and won the Governor General's award for the best non-fiction of that year; others followed: “The Book of Small”, “The House of All Sorts”, “Growing Pains”, “The Heart of A Peacock”, “Pause-A Sketch Book”. Her paintings are in the collections of the the following galleries: Art Association of Montreal, Art Gallery of Ontario, Hart House—University of Toronto, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Lord Beaverbrook Collection, and the National Gallery of Canada in addition to many private collections.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977