International Women’s Day: Spotlight on Emily Carr

Beaverbrook Art GalleryMarch 6, 20200 Comments

This year, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re taking a look at one of Canada’s most iconic artists with an exhibition on display now: Emily Carr. An eccentric woman of remarkable skill, Carr felt a deep connection to the natural Canadian landscape. She shared this appreciation with the famous Group of Seven, who are also best known for their paintings of our beautiful wilderness. Carr has been closely associated with the Group of Seven, although she was never an official member. Her exclusion from the Group makes the vocal support of Lawren Harris feel undeniably hollow. And one has to wonder if her exclusion was due to her gender, given that the Group of Seven was entirely male. Unfortunately for the Canadian artistic canon, we can only imagine what Carr might have produced had she been supported to the extent that her work merited.

“Being included in shows was some acknowledgement of the value of her art, but during the Depression of the 1930s, though Carr’s artistic output grew, she was making so few sales that she was still unable to cover the cost of making her art. Her grievance over this was justified, for in the meantime the National Gallery had almost uninterruptedly continued to buy works by the Group of Seven.” - Greta Moray, Introduction, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr (8)

Carr also faced overt misogyny from her peers and educators, who freely admitted their disdain for female artists. Despite this, Carr excelled in her field, rejecting traditional expectations and instead infusing modernism and her own activism into Canadian art.

“Carr was one of the very few women artists in this period who rejected the pastoral landscapes, domestic scenes, and portraits of mothers and children to seek out subjects with challenging political and ecological themes and cultural significance.” - Lisa Baldissera, Emily Carr, Life & Work.

It is satisfying to note that Carr has become a household name, despite the trials she faced. She was a truly unique Canadian voice, whose storied career proves how underappreciated she was by her peers because of her gender. Luckily, times have changed, and we’re thrilled to honour her work not only for International Women’s Day, but with our ongoing exhibition.

To see a landmark selection of Emily Carr’s works in person, visit the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s exhibition Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing – French Modernism and the West Coast, on display from February 29th to May 31st, 2020. Learn more about the exhibition here.

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