Holding an MA in history, Kathryn Bridge has been an archivist (since 1978) and manager of access services (since 1997) at the BC Archives in Victoria.

She is the author of By Snowshoe, Buckboard & Steamer: Women of the Frontier, a look at the lives of four pioneer women in B.C. during the 19th century. The book earned the Lieutenant-Governor's Award from the B.C. Historical Federation in 1999.

Bridge's profile of Phyllis Munday, who reached the top of Mount Robson and made nearly 100 other ascents [also see Don Munday entry], was shortlisted for the VanCity Book Prize. Don and Phyllis Munday were a remarkable couple who made joint climbs from the 1920s through the 1940s, scaling more than 150 peaks, more than 40 of which were first ascents. As Active members of the Alpine Club of Canada, they climbed throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Mount Robson, which Phyllis Munday revisited in August of 1974, fifty years after her ascent. Bridge has told their combined story in A Passion for Mountains: The Lives of Don and Phyllis Munday (Rocky Mountain Books, 2006), illustrated by many climbing and family photos. Mount Munday was named in their honour by the Geographic Names Board in 1927.

Emily Carr in England (RBCM 2014) is an important contribution to writing about B.C.'s best-known painter, examining Carr's five years in England from 1899 (at age 27) to 1904. With historical photos and Carr's own sketches from the period, it includes some of Carr's comical stories about her life. One makes fun of the guest house where she lived; another describes an unsuccessful attempt to see Queen Victoria's funeral procession, and a third describes a painting excursion into the woods from St. Ives, Cornwall. While at the Westminster School of Art she was keen to participate in a segregated class for female artists drawing from the nude. "I had never been taught to think of our naked bodies as something beautiful," she wrote, "only as something indecent, something to be hidden... [The model's] beauty delighted the artist in us. The illuminated glow of her flesh made sacred the busy hush as we worked." Copies of the book were sent to Dulwich Picture Gallery in London to complement a major, new exhibit on Carr's art.


Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing: French Modernism and the West Coast (Figure 1 $40)

"European painters have sought to express Europe. Canadian painters must strive to express Canada. Misty landscapes and gentle cows do not express Western Canada, even the cows know that." -- Emily Carr

New research into the extent that Emily Carr's art evolved when she was abroad is the subject of a new exhibition at Whistler's Audain Art Museum. Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing: French Modernism and the West Coast (Figure 1 $40) has been published in conjunction with the exhibit (on until January 19, 2020).

Carr's early training in San Francisco and London had been conservative. It wasn't until she studied art in France between 1910 - 1911 that her whole approach to painting changed and she began to experiment with broad, loose brushstrokes and vivid, colours deemed "unnatural" for the time.

After her stint in France, Carr shipped back over a hundred of her oil paintings and watercolours to Canada. "It showed that she believed in these paintings, was proud of her accomplishments," writes Dr. Kathryn Bridge, co-curator of the Audain exhibit, "and thought she would profit from their sales."

But after Carr returned to B.C., her studio show of 70 French works generated few sales in the spring of 1912. A visitor commented on the "riot of colour...I confess I was a little startled. The blues seemed so very blue, the yellows so unmitigated, the reds so aggressive, the greens so verdant."

The French were more sympathetic. In fact, two of her works had been accepted at the 1911 Salon D'Automne. This was a vital venue for experimental artists such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Paul Gaugin.

One of Carr's works chosen by the salon, Le Paysage (Britanny Landscape), has now been purchased by Michael Audain, founder of the Audain Art Museum.

"For the work of an unrecognized artist from Victoria to have been featured at such a prestigious international exhibition during the early 1900s was unprecedented," says Audain of Carr's inclusion in Salon D'Automne.

In a 1930 speech she gave in Victoria on Modern art, Carr said, "unless we bring to our picture something additional -- something creative -- something of ourselves -- our picture does not live… 'Creative Art' is 'fresh seeing.'" 978-1-77327-091-3

[BCBW 2019]


Reviews of the author's work by BC Studies:
Emily Carr in England


Phyllis Munday: Mountaineer (XYZ Publishing, 2002)
A Passion for Mountains: The Lives of Don and Phyllis Munday (Rocky Mountain Books, 2006).
Emily Carr in England (Royal BC Museum 2014) $27.95 978-0-7726-6770-0
Snowshoe, Buckboard & Steamer: Women of the Frontier (Sono Nis Press, 1998). Reprinted as Snowshoe, Buckboard & Steamer: Women of the British Columbia Frontier (RBCM 2019) $19.95 978-0-7726-7310-7
Henry & Self: The Private Life of Sarah Crease 1826-1922 (Sono Nis Press). Reprinted as Henry & Self: An English Gentlewoman at the Edge of Empire (RBCM 2019) $22.95 978-0-7726-7261-2
Emily Carr. Fresh Seeing: French Modernism and the West Coast (Figure 1 2019) in collaboration with the Audain Art Museum $40.00 / 9781773270913. Co-writers include: Kiriko Watanabe, Robin Laurence, and Michael Polay

[BCBW 2020] "Women" "Biography"

Unvarnished: Autobiographical Sketches of Emily Carr
by Emily Carr, edited by Kathryn Bridge (RBCM $24.95)

Review by Beverly Cramp (BCBW 2022)

The artist Emily Carr, who wrote as well as she painted, kept notebooks and private sketchbooks for much of her adult life. In them, she wrote and drew so candidly of her inner thoughts and opinions that they represented, she said, “unvarnished me.”
These personal writings and pictures reveal Carr at her most honest, even more so than her published books like Growing Pains: The Autobiography of Emily Carr (1946/republished by D&M, 2005), The House of All Sorts (1942/republished by D&M, 2004) and the Governor General’s Award-winning Klee Wyck (1941/republished by D&M, 2003).

Many of her journals and notebooks are stored in the B.C. Archives in files with names that were created decades ago. Errant pieces got hidden within other papers while others were disregarded when Carr had flipped around notebooks so that she could write on the blank back-sides of the pages (she disliked wasting paper). Carr even penciled over some pages with scrawls as if dismissing them herself.

Emily Carr expert, Kathryn Bridge has combed through the records of Carr’s hidden writings, file by file, to draw out new information and has published the findings in Unvarnished: Autobiographical Sketches of Emily Carr. Bridge has left misspellings and bad punctuation unedited to protect Carr’s authenticity.

Primarily covering the period 1899 to 1939, the revealing moments and encounters from Carr’s life read like stream-of-consciousness prose. “We are privy to Carr’s innermost thoughts and emotions in ways that were later polished out of the published versions,” says Bridge.

Unvarnished begins with notebooks emily carr kept while studying art in England from 1899 to 1904.

“Nearly every Sunday I went to Mrs. Redden’s at tea time,” writes Carr of her early days in London. “Her eyes were brown & stared when she was thinking—like caged things that had reached their limit.”

An independent Carr is evident when she dismisses Mrs. Redden’s urges to go to the church across from her art school to pray for soldiers fighting in the Boer War. (Mrs. Redden calls Carr by one of her nicknames, ‘Klee Wyck’).

“‘Do you not think Klee Wyck that you should spare time from your studies to pray for our soldiers. The school is so close to the Abbey.’
“‘But Mrs. Redden I could not run into the Abbey in my paint apron by the time I had changed and run across & prayed & run back, it would be a big hole in [the] days work.’

“‘It makes a big hole in the men’s lives going out to fight for us.’
“‘I can pray for them night & morning does it have to be in the Abbey?’

“‘The historic Abbey of all places should rouse ones patriotism.’ Mrs Redden wallowed in the South African war, she bought every paper & every special and read & wept and prayed.”

Another family friend, Mrs. Sophia Mortimer who toured Emily Carr around the historic sights in London, also hounded Carr about a perceived lack of patriotism.

“‘If we hurry we can see the change of guards.’
“‘Why should we want to?’
“‘My dear! The dignity of traditions.’
“‘She was a pretty little lady & romantic with 3 white curls in front of each ear wore widdows bonnets & widdow colors & cuffs though her husband had been dead more years than she had known him alive when he died she had become a widdow-for-good swathed inside her weeds. The same as she would always be a woman of old England swathed in its traditions.”

Showing early on that she preferred the country to the city, Emily Carr went to the small town of Bushey near London in 1901. Carr was determined to continue her artwork despite the distractions.
“Bushey was a good deal talked of as an art colony in the country. The Herkomer school was there,” wrote Carr. “Bushey is full of studios & students besides having Herkomer school. On enquiry I found that if I wanted theatricals dances & good times you went to the school, but if you were out for hard work you went to Mr. Whiteley’s studio. I wanted work.”

After Bushey, Carr travelled to another well-known art colony, St. Ives where she stayed for several months. Upon returning to London in 1902, her domineering older sister ‘Lizzie’ came to visit. Emily was not pleased as her favourite sister was Alice.
“’Oh why isn’t it Alice?’ I wailed. Lizzie & I never did hit it off.
“What made me really angry was the Hipocracy of making out that we were utterly devoted sisters & kissing & fondling me which I loathed and which was not natural to either of us.”

Emily Carr went through a long period of illness before she could return to Canada. Her writing of the return was rejoiceful. “It is good that there is the great ocean between England and Canada the violence of the jump from one to the other would hurt. Of course there is [the] rest of Canada to go through as well before you come to B.C. on the west coast but Canada clear aired & big from the moment you go up the rushing St. Lawrence. I never tired of staring, absorbing from the train window.”

Back in Victoria Carr says, “… the beach & the woods were grand as ever…. I went into it & breathed & breathed till the last vestige of London was cleaned from my lungs.”

In 1906, Carr moved to Vancouver and in 1907, she went on a life-changing trip to Alaska with Alice. “It was in Sitka I first conceived the idea of painting Indians & totem poles,” writes Carr. “I shall come up every summer among the villages of B.C. and I shall do all the totem poles & villages … That was exactly what I did in the years that followed … It cost a lot of money but I felt it was worth while & worked very hard.”

Early on, Carr encountered pushback and sexism. “Some of the men artists in Vancouver were angry because I was making headway and because my work was strong more like a man’s than theirs. When the Art society gave exhibitions these men hung my pictures under shelves or on the ceiling.”

Carr was not one to be deterred. “I [went] right on my own way. I did not bother with the other artists or societies and they got angrier than ever because I did not care. A plan was forming in my head … I was saving to go to Paris everyone said Paris was the top of art and I wanted to get the best teaching I knew.” And it was in Paris that Carr began painting in a Post-Impressionist way, complete with bright, unrealistic colours.

Upon her return to Canada and her family, her new work was met with dismay. “They had never taken much interest in my painting at home but when I unpacked my box there was dead silence among my sisters and friends … Nobody painted that way out West.” But Carr knew that her French instructors had deepened her art. “I was doing bigger freer work. I attacked my material with a bolder fiercer spirit,” she writes of the period.

And here is where Carr’s strength of character shines through as she was ridiculed for her new Modern painting. “I built a wall high & solid. My friends & relatives, the old way of work were on one side on the other side of the wall was myself, my aspirations my real work. I did not talk about it to anyone.”

Emily Carr moved back to victoria in 1913 and built a small apartment house that she hoped would provide a living. Her studio was in the back. Life remained difficult for many years. “We had always been a devoted if independent family. My smoking, damning and not going to church troubled my family very much. It was frequently thrust upon me that I had always been different from the rest.” Carr was so discouraged, she did little painting for over a decade.

It was Eastern Canadians who rescued her. The National Gallery of Canada, big on the Group of Seven painters had heard of Carr’s work and invited her to participate in a 1927 exhibition. When asked about the Group of Seven, she said, “Who are they?” The reply: “Seven fine men who are the art leaders in Canada. You have not read ‘The Group of Seven’ just out by Fred Housser?”

Carr admitted that she hadn’t and that she had not painted for nearly 15 years. “Come, make a new start you have fine material out West come & meet the ‘Group’ they are inspiring,” Carr wrote in her journals of the offer. And that is what she did, becoming ‘discovered’ by the rest of Canada and paving the way for a new round of work that focused on the forests and scenery of the West.

In 1937, Emily Carr had her first heart attack. While recuperating, and under strict orders not to paint, she began writing stories. Between 1939 and 1940, she had a second heart attack forcing her to move in with her sister Alice. A stroke followed, debilitating her further.

Carr’s writing gained attention, championed by her friends including Ira Dilworth, and were read on CBC Radio. Her first collection, Klee Wyck (1941) won the Governor General’s Award for Literary Merit in non-fiction. She published two more books before dying on March 2, 1945. But she left behind a treasure trove of unpublished writing, some of which has found its way into Unvarnished. 9780772679642

Beverly Cramp is publisher of BC BookWorld.