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

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
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

Carr was raised as the youngest of three sisters in a traditional Anglo-Saxon household in Victoria, B.C.. Despite Carr's notoriety for being a strong-willed eccentric, she gained the respect and admiration of Group of Seven members, especially Lawren Harris. Carr and Harris exchanged letters often and she felt he was one of the only people who she could speak freely with about art, nationalism, theosophy and spirituality. Along with several members of the Group of Seven, Carr was one of the founding members of the Canadian Group of Painters.

Educated at the San Francisco School of Art (1889-1895), Westminster School of Art in London (1899-1904), and in Paris (1910-11), Carr introduced French Modernism to British Columbia. The fauvist aesthetic Carr had adopted while abroad was far from the traditional landscape paintings that dominated the western Canadian art scene at the time. Her use of bright colours and her disinterest in detail was so new to Victoria that she did not gain much local appreciation until her later years. Despite her lukewarm praise at home, Carr received generous reviews in Paris and this kept her motivated. English teacher Ira Dilworth, American abstract painter Mark Tobey, and art dealer Max Stern were some of Carr's key supporters and who recognized her contribution to the Canadian art scene. Eventually, the inspiration she drew from European avant-gardism melded with the graphic simplicity and symbolism of Native American totems to create some of her best known artworks.