She was the second-youngest of nine siblings born to Richard and Emily Carr in British Columbia.
Her family was very British, and her father insisted on upholding the English customs and traditions. She was raised Presbyterian and was required to give a sermon to her family each week, something she never quite mastered.
She began painting her most famous works when she was in her late 50s.
She attended the San Francisco Art Institute and the Westminster School of Art. She was an unpopular teacher at the Ladies Art Club in Vancouver because she smoked and cursed at the students, leading them to boycott her classes. She left after a month.
“If you're going to lick the icing off somebody else's cake you won't be nourished and it won't do you any good, or you might find the cake had caraway seeds and you hate them.”
“I think that one's art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows.”
“It is hard to remember just when you first became aware of being alive. It is like looking through rain onto a bald, new lawn; as you watch, the brown is all pricked with pale green. You did not see the points pierce, did not hear the stab - there they are!”
Emily was born in 1871 in Victoria, Canada, and she had 8 brothers and sisters. Emily’s parents, Richard and Emily Carr, were from England. The Carr family had a lot of money and their house was very fancy.
When Emily’s parents died in 1891, Emily started painting and went to art school 1890-1892 in San Francisco, America. Then she went back to Canada. In 1899, Emily went to London to Westminster School of Art.
Emily became an art teacher but her students did not like her because she was rude.
In 1907 Emily visited Alaska with her sister and she painted aboriginals (the people that live in Alaska) in their villages.
In 1910 Emily lived in France and was influenced by Fauves and Gibb’s use ofcolour in his art. She didn’t think she was very good at art so in 1912 Emily went back to Victoria, Canada and nearly gave up painting forever.
For 15 years, Emily ran a boarding house called ‘House of All Sorts’ whichinfluenced her writing.
In the 1920s and 1930s Emily travelled around the world so she could look at other people’s work. While she was travelling, she then painted a famous artwork called ‘Big Raven’.
When she returned to Canada, Emily showed some of her work in an exhibition and talked about the villages she had visited. She went she went back to Canada in 1935 she put on her own show at the Women’s Art Association of Canada in Toronto.
In 1927 Emily exhibited 26 paintings, pottery, rugs and designs at the National Gallery. This was because Marius Barbeau and Eric Brown liked her work and wanted other people to see it.
Big Raven, 1931
What Is Her Art About?
Her artwork is religious and spiritual. Emily presentedGod as nature through painting landscapes.
Emily painted the emotional and mythological totemic carvings that she saw when travelling.
Emily’s artwork was different from other artists because she painted native people and nature.
Emily’s work became more colourful as she got older. Before visiting London and Paris, Emily used charcoal and watercolour for her sketches. After visiting, she used oil paint on canvas.
Emily Carr, Kitwancool, 1928
Emily also wrote books about her native friends. These books (The Book of Small (1942), The House of All Sorts (1944), Growing Pains (1946), The Heart of a Peacock (1953) and Hundreds andThousands (1966)) were mainly published after she died.
Her Later Life
Emily produced her best work when she was 57 years old.
In 1937, 1939 and 1942 Emily had a heart-attack and moved into a house with her sister.