Emily had met Lawren Harris when she traveled east in 1927; this leader of the Group of Seven would become a mentor to Emily, advising, comforting and cajoling her as she struggled with her isolation. Their relationship pivoted on their shared reverence for nature; both felt that art provided a unique experience which heightened the artist's perception of life in a continually unfolding relationship with the natural world.
It was he who recommended that she move away from the "Indian motif" and towards more direct contact with the landscape as a way of freeing her from external artistic influence. Increasingly drawn to abstraction in his own work, he was a strong advocate and Emily felt compelled to try to find a new approach to her work. She later admitted "His work and example did more to influence my outlook upon Art than any school or any master."1

Emily had met Lawren Harris when she traveled east in 1927; this leader of the Group of Seven would become a mentor to Emily, advising, comforting and cajoling her as she struggled with her isolation. Their relationship pivoted on their shared reverence for nature; both felt that art provided a unique experience which heightened the artist's perception of life in a continually unfolding relationship with the natural world.
It was he who recommended that she move away from the "Indian motif" and towards more direct contact with the landscape as a way of freeing her from external artistic influence. Increasingly drawn to abstraction in his own work, he was a strong advocate and Emily felt compelled to try to find a new approach to her work. She later admitted "His work and example did more to influence my outlook upon Art than any school or any master."1

1Emily Carr, Growing Pains – An Autobiography, (Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 1946), 252.


© 2007, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.

A charcoal sketch of trees on a hillside.

A charcoal sketch of trees on a hillside.

Emily Carr
Gift of George and Lola Kidd
c. 1929
Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA
CANADA Vancouver Island and vicinity, British Columbia, Vancouver Island and vicinity, CANADA
AGGV 1998.028.001
© 2007, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


"I have done a charcoal sketch today of young pines at the foot of a forest. I may make a canvas out of it. It should lead from joy back to mystery - young pines full of light and joyousness against a background of moving mysterious forest. Last night I dreamed that I came face to face with a picture I had done and forgotten, a forest done in simple movement, just forms of trees moving in space. That is the third time I have seen pictures in my dreams, a glint of what I am striving to attain. Perhaps some day I shall get things clearer. Every day I long for the woods more, to get away and commune with things … My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching."1
"I have done a charcoal sketch today of young pines at the foot of a forest. I may make a canvas out of it. It should lead from joy back to mystery - young pines full of light and joyousness against a background of moving mysterious forest. Last night I dreamed that I came face to face with a picture I had done and forgotten, a forest done in simple movement, just forms of trees moving in space. That is the third time I have seen pictures in my dreams, a glint of what I am striving to attain. Perhaps some day I shall get things clearer. Every day I long for the woods more, to get away and commune with things … My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching."1
1Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands, (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2006), 49.
© 2006, Douglas & McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.

A black oil abstract painting of trees in a forest on manila paper.

An abstract painting of trees in a forest on manila paper. Carr used this inexpensive paper when sketching or painting during field trips.

Emily Carr
Gift of Mr. Peter Ohler
c. 1930
CANADA Vancouver Island and vicinity, British Columbia, Vancouver Island and vicinity, CANADA
Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA
AGGV 1973.070.001
© 2007, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


"I went no more then to the far villages, but to the deep, quiet woods near home where I sat staring, staring, staring ~ half lost, learning a new language or rather the same language in a different dialect. So still were the big woods where I sat, sound might not yet have been born. Slowly, slowly I began to put feeble scratchings and smudges of paint onto my paper, returning home disheartened, wondering, waiting for the woods to say something to me personally."1
"I went no more then to the far villages, but to the deep, quiet woods near home where I sat staring, staring, staring ~ half lost, learning a new language or rather the same language in a different dialect. So still were the big woods where I sat, sound might not yet have been born. Slowly, slowly I began to put feeble scratchings and smudges of paint onto my paper, returning home disheartened, wondering, waiting for the woods to say something to me personally."1
1Emily Carr, Growing Pains – An Autobiography, (Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 1946), 238.
© 1946, Irwin Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Conservator Chris Russell discusses the challenges of caring for a painting when non-traditional materials have been used.

Chris Russell, Chief Preparator and Conservator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, discusses the challenges of caring for and maintaining the original quality of a painting when an artist has experimented with non-traditional media and techniques, as Emily Carr did during the 1930s.

Hello, my name is Chris Russell. I’m chief preparator and conservator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and I’m responsible for the care of Emily’s artwork in the collection.

When artists work in a traditional manner with traditional media generally conservators are happy, because things don’t go wrong. It’s when they step outside the boundaries and experiment with new media and techniques that sometimes we run into difficulties, and this is what happened with Emily Carr’s artwork. Her earliest works generally are watercolors with traditional watercolor paper and good quality paint and they’ve survived very well for almost 100 years.

Emily’s big breakthrough came in the 1930’s when she developed a technique – or invented a technique – of painting with oil colors drastically thinned down with gasoline to give the effect of watercolor but in a much more dramatic color and tone. Although this new technique liberated her artistically the downside was that she used the poorest quality materials cheap Manila paper, very thin paper, which yellowed over time. The paper which was initially cream color was often left unpainted in areas; the color of the paper would have glowed through the paint. This unfortunately has now turned brown over the years.

The problem for the conservator, with a painting such as this, which is mounted on a very heavy but very acidic cardboard, is to remove the paper without damage. The process involves a series of water baths in distilled water. The first bath generally loosens the paper; the second bath dissolves most of the glue that’s still adhering. Then another bath is to remove more of the discoloration. Finally when it’s seems to be as clean as it can be the paper is de-acidified in a bath to give it an alkaline buffer. At this phase, the paper has lost the deep deep brown color and returned to a lighter yellow, but unfortunately it will never be the same as it was originally. The next process is to strengthen the paper. Now usually what we do is float this onto a piece of mulberry, Japanese mulberry paper, which is very resistant to tearing and is neutral.

Then of course it has to be framed and glazed. We frame and glaze the work using an ultraviolet filtering glass or plexi glass. Finally we have to control the humidity of the space in which it’s stored of exhibited. The higher the humidity the more rapid the deterioration and there’s always the danger of mold, actual mold growing on the surface of the paper which would be disastrous. Ideally, if the works could be kept at almost freezing point, we’d preserve them for very much longer but it makes it very difficult for viewers to see them.

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Chris Russell, Chief Preparator and Conservator, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
20th Century
Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2007, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


Conservator Chris Russell discusses the challenges of caring for a painting when non-traditional materials have been used.

Chris Russell, Chief Preparator and Conservator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, discusses the challenges of caring for and maintaining the original quality of a painting when an artist has experimented with non-traditional media and techniques, as Emily Carr did during the 1930s.

Hello, my name is Chris Russell. I’m chief preparator and conservator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and I’m responsible for the care of Emily’s artwork in the collection.

When artists work in a traditional manner with traditional media generally conservators are happy, because things don’t go wrong. It’s when they step outside the boundaries and experiment with new media and techniques that sometimes we run into difficulties, and this is what happened with Emily Carr’s artwork. Her earliest works generally are watercolors with traditional watercolor paper and good quality paint and they’ve survived very well for almost 100 years.

Emily’s big breakthrough came in the 1930’s when she developed a technique – or invented a technique – of painting with oil colors drastically thinned down with gasoline to give the effect of watercolor but in a much more dramatic color and tone. Although this new technique liberated her artistically the downside was that she used the poorest quality materials cheap Manila paper, very thin paper, which yellowed over time. The paper which was initially cream color was often left unpainted in areas; the color of the paper would have glowed through the paint. This unfortunately has now turned brown over the years.

The problem for the conservator, with a painting such as this, which is mounted on a very heavy but very acidic cardboard, is to remove the paper without damage. The process involves a series of water baths in distilled water. The first bath generally loosens the paper; the second bath dissolves most of the glue that’s still adhering. Then another bath is to remove more of the discoloration. Finally when it’s seems to be as clean as it can be the paper is de-acidified in a bath to give it an alkaline buffer. At this phase, the paper has lost the deep deep brown color and returned to a lighter yellow, but unfortunately it will never be the same as it was originally. The next process is to strengthen the paper. Now usually what we do is float this onto a piece of mulberry, Japanese mulberry paper, which is very resistant to tearing and is neutral.

Then of course it has to be framed and glazed. We frame and glaze the work using an ultraviolet filtering glass or plexi glass. Finally we have to control the humidity of the space in which it’s stored of exhibited. The higher the humidity the more rapid the deterioration and there’s always the danger of mold, actual mold growing on the surface of the paper which would be disastrous. Ideally, if the works could be kept at almost freezing point, we’d preserve them for very much longer but it makes it very difficult for viewers to see them.

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Chris Russell, Chief Preparator and Conservator, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
20th Century
Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2007, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Curriculum Link (BC) – English Language Arts 11/12; Visual Arts 9/10/11/12; Social Studies 10/11; Information Technology 9/10

Learning Objectives:
· Carr kept a journal at this time to organize her thoughts and assist in her painting, after reading the quote from her journal and viewing her painting students can compare the features and relative merits of different communications, including those created by the same author, designer, or director.
· Students will make connections among the themes and ideas expressed in various materials.
· After learning of Carr’s increasing interest in different landscape themes – forests and trees and the sea and sky - and how she strove to capture the essence of these, students will analyze how the physical qualities of visual elements and principles of art and design are used to create effects and mood in representational and non-representational images.
· After learning of Lawren Harris’ mentorship of Carr, students will see how the interaction of art and artists from different contexts can affect their style, purpose, and meaning.
· Students will describe the contributions of specific individuals (Emily Carr and Lawren Harris) to the arts in Canada.
· Students will appreciate the notable contributions that Canadians (Carr and Harris) have made to the arts and literature and how these achievements have contributed to our national identity.
· This learning object will allow students to demonstrate their ability to use the Internet to access, capture, and store information.
· Students will use information technology tools to gather and organize information and produce documents.
· By interacting with this object students will demonstrate an awareness of the impact of electronic resources on education, careers, and recreation.


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