As an amateur artist,  an aspiring writer and a feminist, my admiration goes to Emily Carr.

Emily Carr was one of the most important, and perhaps most original, Canadian painters of the early twentieth century. She is an important part of art history. She was one of the only major female artists in North America and Europe of that time period. Emily’s paintings depict the rugged scenery of the west coast of Canada and the West Coast native peoples. She developed her own bold, colourful, post-impressionist style of painting.

Emily Carr
Emily Carr

Emily Carr was born in 1871 in Victoria BC, She was orphaned as a young girl and raised by a sister.

Emily wanted to be an artist and she studied art in San Francisco and Europe. After her studies, she struggled financially and didn’t paint for many years. Finally, in 1927, at the age of 57,  her work came to the attention of the National Gallery of Canada. She was welcomed by the Group of Seven painters as a contemporary.

By the late 1930’s, Emily suffered a series of heart attacks which made travel difficult. She began to spend more time on writing. One of her most famous books is Klee Wyck , which is based on her experiences in First Nations villages. She won the Governor General’s Award for Literature in 1941.

Emily Carr Kitwancool 1928
Emily Carr Kitwancool 1928

For me, she represents the struggles of women artists. She was an artist and a writer in a time when women were either homemakers or working in factories.

She lived at a time when women were not recognized as serious painters. Many of the art societies of the day did not allow woman members even though her work was equal in quality and originality. (Even today, women artists struggle for recognition.)

She is best known for her depictions of the rain forests of BC and the Totems of the Native people. She died in 1945.


I love Emily’s free flowing style and her use of bold colours. Each of her paintings has wonderful curves, movement and richness.

Indian Church, Emily Carr 1929

Here are a few quotes from her writings:

“Be careful that you do not write or paint anything that is not your own, that you don’t know in your own soul.” (Emily Carr)

The men resent a woman getting any honour in what they consider is essentially their field. Men painters mostly despise women painters. So I have decided to stop squirming, to throw any honour in with Canada and women. (Emily Carr)

Indian Art broadened my seeing, loosened the formal tightness I had learned in England’s schools. Its bigness and stark reality baffled my white man’s understanding… I had been schooled to see outsides only, not struggle to pierce. (Emily Carr)

Bless… the two painting masters who first pointed out to me (raw young pupil that I was) that there was coming and going among trees, that there was sunlight in shadows. (Emily Carr)

Emily Carr deserves Admiration