Emily Carr was born in Victoria BC and spent most of her living near Beacon Hill Park and Government Street. It was a bustling small town then, rising up along the coast, with the tumble of new commerce in the Gold Rush’s wake.
“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 prickled with pale green. You did not see the points pierce, did not hear the stab—there they are!” —from Emily Carr’s the Book of Small, Beginnings
Victoria today retains the feeling of a smaller city, easily walkable, with a good bit of the charm and expansive natural views that Carr no doubt drew inspiration from. If provincial social moires of her age were a limitation, coast and trees seem to define the broadening of her vision.Emily’s family home is open to the public and is a short six block walk from the core of the Inner Harbor. On a spring visit, I found an orderly garden in spring bloom.
“…the garden prim and carefully tended. Everything about it was extremely English. It was as though Father had buried a tremendous homesickness in this new soil and it had rooted and sprung up English.” —from Emily Carr’s the Book of Small, Beginnings
I think of the security and sense of place mixed with bittersweet expectations that an emerging woman artist surely experienced. The scent of green, rain soaked grass and broad parks, which really felt like wilderness, framed by traditional English architecture. I see Victoria as the blessing and curse for Emily—but in so many ways this is the case for each of us—learning through what pushes on us, the counter-intuitive guiding us to the intuitive.
Everything in the Northwest woods now is out in the tenderest of greens, ferns hide nurseries of mushrooms and trees wave fragile new leaves in the breeze…soon the forest will be darker and deeper, sunlight fueling growth, the perfect time to step into Carr’s forest paintings.
Pine Trees & Blue Sky, Emily Carr, c. 1935, 1983.074.00, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Gift of Mrs. Joanna McGreevy & Mr. H. Hume Wright. Reproduced here courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, all rights reserved.