LITERARY LOCATION: Emily Carr Memorial Foot Bridge, Beacon Hill Park; a concrete and stone bridge over the stream between Goodacre Lake and Fountain Lake. Follow Douglas Street to the park; nearest intersection is Avalon.

Emily Carr's reputation as a visual artist has overshadowed her literary accomplishments, but in 1941, the same year that Victoria-born poet Anne Marriott won a Governor General's Award for Poetry for her collection Calling Adventurers!, Emily Carr received the Governor General's Award for her first non-fiction book, Klee Wyck (1941). They were the first two B.C. authors to win one of the country's top literary prizes (to be followed soon thereafter by Earle Birney and Dorothy Livesay). "I tried to be plain, straight, simple and Indian," Carr once declared, regarding her writing.

There are plenty of locales in B.C. that could serve as literary landmarks for Carr, such as her childhood home at 207 Government Street. The restored, two-story heritage building dating from 1863 was sold by the Carr family in 1938. As well, according to historian Eve Lazarus, Emily Carr's Oak Bay cottage that was located at 494 Victoria Avenue has been preserved at 825 Foul Bay Road, situated behind a Samuel Maclure heritage house at that address. In the late 1930s Emily Carr was living at 316 Beckley Street when she met the French surrealist Wolfgang Paalen when she was sixty-seven years old. But Emily Carr might prefer the stone bridge that was designed and built in her honour in Beacon Hill Park in 1953 at the behest of her sister, Alice, who contributed $1,000 and engaged architect Alexander Robert Hennell for the project. According to the Times, "It is set in one of the late artists's favorite spots in the park, and it was there she spent many of her leisure hours." Stones for the bridge came from the nearby beach on Dallas Road. A modest plaque on the north side of the bridge states: "To the memory of my sister, M. Emily Carr, Canadian artist and writer. Born Victoria, B. C. December 13, 1871. Died March 3, 1945. Alice M. Carr." There is no mention of the architect whose granddaughter, writer/producer Valerie Hennell, is married to B.C. folk musician Rick Scott. Valerie Hennell's father Valentine Hennell escorted Alice Carr to the bridge, along with sculptor and artist Jan Zach, for the official dedication ceremony on February 10, 1953, by which time Alice Carr was blind. She had been a doting nanny for the Hennell family for many years, particularly close to Valentine Hennell, as Emily Carr recorded in her private letters to Ira Dilworth. Before Fountain Lake was created, Emily Carr described the area on page 79 of her Book of Small: "In the woody swamp of the Park millions and millions of frogs croaked through the Spring nights."

At age 69, having suffered a stroke, Emily Carr began writing 21 vignettes about wildflowers, partly as a tonic while she was bed- ridden. At age 70, Carr published non-fiction pieces based on her visits to First Nations villages, called Klee Wyck. She confided in her diary, "I tried to be plain, straight, simple and Indian. I wanted to be true to the places as well as to the people. I put my whole soul into them and tried to avoid sentimentality. I went down deep into myself." Carr had enrolled in a short story writing correspondence course in 1926 and taken a similar course at Humber College in 1934. She also benefited from the friendship of Garnett Sedgewick, head of UBC's English Department, and Ira Dilworth, regional head of the CBC, both of whom read her stories on the radio. Dilworth was her editor and later served as her literary executor. Despite a 20-year-age difference--or perhaps because of it--they were able to sign their many letters to one another "with love." Carr confessed some of her most private feelings to him and sometimes playfully referred to him as "My Beloved Guardian."

Encouraged by critical acclaim for Klee Wyck, Carr continued to write memoirs and stories. Her other books include The Book of Small (1942), The House of All Sorts (1944) and various posthumous titles, such as Growing Pains (1946).

Although she preferred not to discuss her work, it is evident Carr was a more sophisticated writer than she cared to admit. She once commented, "I did not know book rules. I made two for myself. They were about the same as the principles I use in painting--get to the point as directly as you can; never use a big word if a little one will do." As a philosophical artist, Carr was very quotable on a variety of topics such as Canada, ageing and her own work. She once wrote, "It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw, not because she is Canada but because she's something sublime that you were born into, some great rugged power that you are a part of." As for ageing, she wrote, "It is not all bad, this getting old, ripening. After the fruit has got its growth it should juice up and mellow. God forbid I should live long enough to ferment and rot and fall to the ground in a squash."

Carr's dual adeptness at writing and painting once prompted George Woodcock to comment, "She would have made a good sister for William Blake."


The youngest of five sisters, Emily Carr was born in the year British Columbia entered Confederation, on December 13, 1871. A brother was born several years later. Her mother died when she was twelve and her domineering father died in 1888 when 'Millie' was 14. A much detested and pious older sister made her life miserable, sometimes whipping her, until Emily Carr was able to study art in San Francisco. After returning to Victoria in 1895, she was invited by a missionary friend of her sister Lizzie to make the first of her forays into the primeval rainforests of the West Coast, visiting Ucluelet in 1899 where her sister was becoming a missionary. This trip stirred her interest in Aboriginal villages. On this trip she also gained her name from the Nuu-chah-nulth or Nootka people, 'Klee Wyck', meaning Laughing One.

On her return voyage to Victoria, the ship's purser named William Locke Paddon fell in love with her--but it was "an immense love that I could neither accept [nor] return." Partially to get beyond the persistence of her suitor, she saved enough money to continue her education in England, where she tried unsuccessfully to witness Queen Victoria's funeral, and studied at the Westminster School of Art from 1899 to 1904. During this period she reportedly collapsed in the fall of 1902 with acute anaemia and was interned in the East Anglia Sanatorium in Suffolk, England for health reasons that have never been adequately explained or identified. [Carr's mysterious and possibly damaging treatments for hysteria are at the core of Margaret Hollingsworth's novel about creativity and ageing, Be Quiet (Coteau, 2003).] She was not permitted to paint for 18 months during her enforced confinement, so she kept a sketchbook that reflects her experiences in the Sunhill Sanatorium. It became the gist of a book published in 1972 entitled Pause.

Emily Carr came back to Canada in 1904 and made a six-week stopover with friends in the rugged Cariboo. "Mounted on a cow pony I roamed the land..." she wrote. "How happy I was!" She was relieved to accept an invitation to teach at the Vancouver Studio Club in 1906, escaping the conservative claustrophobia of Victoria and her family. Dissatisfied with teaching 'society ladies' (who included a young writer-to-be named Ethel Wilson), she rented a studio at 570 Granville Street. In the summer of 1907, Carr and her sister Alice took a cruise to Alaska where she was much impressed by the totem poles she saw during a visit to Sitka, an American naval base on Barnof Island. There she discovered an old Tlingit village where carvings remained in their original settings. "The Indian people and their art touched me deeply..." she wrote upon her return. "By the time I reached home my mind was made up. I was going to picture totem poles in their village settings and complete a collection of them as I could."

With her sister Alice as an interpreter, Carr sailed for France in July of 1910 to visit Paris and study at the famous Colarossi Academy. "I could not paint in the old way - it is dead - meaningless - empty," she once said. "...I wanted now to find out what this 'New Art' was about." But she was not able to understand her instructors. Disheartened, she returned again to Vancouver to paint and teach in 1911, renting a studio at 1465 West Broadway. In 1912, she made her first visit to the Queen Charlotte Islands and the Skeena River region accompanied by her constant companion, a sheepdog named Billie. She first stopped at Kwakiutl villages on the east coast of Vancouver Island, visiting 15 different coastal villages in all. During two months of work, she produced almost 200 works, plus she gave a 'Lecture on Totems'. "These poles are fast becoming extinct," she said. "Every year sees some of their number fall, rotted with age; others bought and carried off to museums in various parts of the world." But Carr's art and vision were simply ahead of her time. By 1913 she was ready to renounce her hopes of becoming a professional artist after renting Drummond Hall in April for a showing of 200 paintings, none of which sold.

Emily Carr returned to Victoria and managed a family home, Hill House, for lodgers. The ethnologist Marius Barbeau heard of her work and visited her in Vancouver, whereupon Barbeau arranged for Carr to meet Eric Brown, director of the National Gallery. Carr had some of her work shown in a major exhibition called 'Canadian and West Coast Art, Native and Modern' at the National Gallery in Ottawa. At age 56, it was her first major showing and she travelled east for the opening, meeting members of the Group of Seven in the process. This association with the Group of Seven, in particular Lawren Harris with whom she corresponded for many years, boosted her artistic morale. She revisited the Skeena and the Queen Charlottes, but she largely abandoned Indigenous themes in 1929 in favour of painting the forests. In the 1930s, encouraged by Lawren Harris, her reputation as a painter grew. In 1937 she was diagnosed with heart problems. This curtailed her summer painting expeditions. She turned to writing accounts of Aboriginals and their villages, confiding in her diary, "I tried to be plain, straight, simple and Indian. I wanted to be true to the places as well as to the people. I put my whole soul into them and tried to avoid sentimentality. I went down deep into myself."

At age 69, having suffered a stroke, Carr began work on 21 vignettes about wildflowers, partly as tonic while bedridden. These would be published in 2006, accompanied by illustrations of wild plants by one of her drawing instructors, Emily Henrietta Woods. At age 70, in 1941, Emily Carr published her collection of non-fiction pieces based on her visits to Indian villages, called Klee Wyck. The following year, when B.C. poet Anne Marriott received a Governor General's award for poetry, Emily Carr also received the Governor General's Gold Medal for non-fiction for her first book, Klee Wyck. In doing so, she became one of the first two B.C. recipients of Canada's foremost literary award. She was not a neophyte. She had enrolled in a short story writing correspondence course in 1926 and taken a similar writing course at Humber College in 1934. Carr also benefitted from the friendship of Garnet Sedgwick, head of the UBC English Department, and Ira Dilworth, regional head of the CBC, both of whom read her stories on the radio. Encouraged by critical acclaim for Klee Wyck, she continued to write memoirs and stories. Carr seldom liked to discuss her work but it's apparent she was a more sophisticated writer than she cared to admit. She once commented, "I did not know book rules. I made two for myself. They were about the same as the principles I use in painting--get to the point as directly as you can; never use a big word if a little one will do."

There is an obscure volume called Fresh-Seeing (seldom mentioned in her bibliographies) that contains the only public talks she gave about her craft. As a philosophical artist, Carr was very quotable on a variety of topics such as Canada, ageing and her own work. She once wrote, "It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw, not because she is Canada but because she's something sublime that you were born into, some great rugged power that you are a part of." She could be equally expressive about personal matters. "It is not all bad, this getting old, ripening," she once said. "After the fruit has got its growth it should juice up and mellow. God forbid I should live long enough to ferment and rot and fall to the ground in a squash."

Emily Carr remained aloof, mostly perceived as an eccentric, someone who hung furniture from her ceiling (only letting down the chairs for visitors if she liked them), kept an exotic array of pets, including a monkey which paraded in a baby's pram, while operating a boarding house, making pottery for tourists and breeding bobtail sheep dogs for sale. As an artist, she was rarely satisfied. "You always feel when you look it straight in the eye that you could have put more into it, could have let yourself go and dug harder," she wrote. Although Emily Carr claimed to detest the "rubbish" and "slop" in newspapers with their "beastly empty write-ups" and maintained she dodged the press, much of her alienation was defensiveness or self-inflation. Maria Tippett's essay '"A Paste Solitaire in a Steel Claw Setting": Emily Carr and Her Public' (BC Studies, 1973-74) affords an excellent summary of her contradictory impulses in this regard. The extent to which Emily Carr wanted to be shunned, or misunderstood, can never be known, but as an artist she definitely did crave acceptance. Hers was a long and painful apprenticeship; after she died on March 2, 1945 in Victoria, she got her wish.

In February of 2007, in the hopes that she would be contracted to produce a bronze statue approximately 1.5 times the life size of B.C.'s best-known artist, Edmonton-based sculptor Barbara Paterson unveiled a 60-pound brass maquette at Emily Carr House depicting Carr with one of her dogs and her pet monkey Woo on her shoulder. "I really think Victoria is missing the boat," she told the Victoria News, "if they don't [get it made]. You've got the biggest icon in the world with Emily Carr--she's world famous and a character. So I'm ready, but I can't wait forever." In 2004, the Parks and Recreation Foundation in Victoria created a special fund to generate the $200,000 necessary to complete Paterson's Emily Carr project, which she commenced in 2001.

The first major international exhibition of Emily Carr's paintings was held at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London in the fall of 2014. Conceived to accompany the exhibit was a lavish coffee table book, From the Forest to the Sea, co-published by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the Dulwich Picture Gallery and Goose Lane Editions. It was officially launched at the opening of the AGO's exhibition of the same name on April 11, 2015. Edited by Canadian art critic Sarah Milroy and Ian Dejardin, Sackler Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the book features written contributions by acclaimed contemporary artists Peter Doig and Jessica Stockholder; leading Carr scholars Ian Thom, Charles Hill, Kathryn Bridge, and Gerta Moray; Haida hereditary chief and master carver James Hart; Kwakwaka'wakw artists Corrine Hunt and Marianne Nicolson; and anthropologists Robert Storrie and Karen Duffek. Together, they illuminate Carr's immense legacy and the connections to First Nations culture that inspired her work.


Klee Wyck (Toronto, London: Oxford University Press, 1941; Toronto: Farrar and Rinehart, 1942) - Indian villages. Republished by Clarke, Irwin, 1966, 1971.

The Book of Small (Toronto, London: Oxford University Press, 1942) - memoir of childhood. Republished in two parts, edited by Ira Dilworth, by Clarke, Irwin, 1952.

The House of All Sorts (Oxford University Press, 1944) - landlady days. Republished by Clarke, Irwin, 1971.

Growing Pains (Oxford University Press, 1946) - autobiography. Republished by Clarke, Irwin, 1966; D&M 2005.

Pause: A Sketch Book (Clarke, Irwin, 1953) - sanatorium memoir

The Heart of a Peacock (Oxford University Press, 1953) - stories and prose sketches, edited by Ira Dilworth. Republishd by D&M, 2005.

An Address, by Emily Carr (1955), speech given by Carr to the Victoria Women's Canadian Club in 1930

Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr (Clarke, Irwin, 1966) - miscellany, from 1927 to 1941. Reprinted as Hundreds and Thousands: The Autobiography of Emily Carr (Douglas & McIntyre, 2006), with an introduction by Gerta Moray.

Fresh-Seeing: Two Addresses by Emily Carr. (Clarke, Irwin, 1972) - comments on art

Klee Wyck: Traduit de l'anglais (Collections des deux Solitudes) (Montreal: Le Cercle du Libre de France, 1973).

The Emily Carr Omnibus (Douglas & McIntyre, 1993) - compendium of Carr's writing.

Emily Carr and Her Dogs: Flirt, Punk and Loo (D&M, 1997, 2002, 2005).

Opposite Contraries: The Unknown Journals of Emily Carr & Other Writing (Douglas & McIntyre, 2003). Edited by Susan Crean.

Corresponding Influence: Selected Letters of Emily Carr and Ira Dilworth (UTP 2006). Edited by Linda M. Morra.

Wild Flowers (Royal B.C. Museum, 2006). Illustrated by Emily Woods. Foreword by Kathryn Bridge.

This and That (Victoria: Ti-Jean Press, 2007). Short stories, edited Ann-Lee Switzer. $17. 978-1-896627-14-4


Browne, Colin. I Had An Interesting French Artist To See Me This Summer: Emily Carr and Wolfgang Paalen in British Columbia (Vancouver Art Gallery / Figure.1 2016)
Carter, Laurie. Emily Carr's B.C.: Book One, Vancouver Island (Little White Publishing 2015)
From the Forest to the Sea (Goose Lane Editions 2015)
Bridge, Kathryn. Emily Carr in England (RBCM 2014)
DeSoto, Lewis. Emily Carr (Penguin, 2008).
Moray, Gerta. Unsettling Encounters: First Nations Imagery in the Art of Emily Carr (UBC Press 2006).
Thom, Ian M. & Charles C. Hill & Johanne Lamoureux. Emily Carr (Douglas & McIntyre, 2006).
Linda Morra. Corresponding Influencee: Selected Letters of Emily Carr and Ira Dilworth (UTP, 2005)
Susan Crean. The Laughing One: A Journey to Emily Carr (Harper-Flamingo, 2001)
Kate Braid. Emily Carr: Rebel Artist (XYZ Publishing, 2000)
Anne Newlands. Emily Carr: An Introduction to her Life and Art (Firefly, 1996)
Stephanie Kirkwood Walker. This Woman in Particular: Contexts for the Biographical Image of Emily Carr (Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1996)
Maria Tippett. Emily Carr: A Biography (Stoddart Publishing, 1994)
Doris Shadbolt. Emily Carr (Douglas & McIntyre, 1979, 1990)
Paula Blanchard. The Life of Emily Carr (Douglas & McIntyre, 1987)
Ruth Growers. Emily Carr (Berg Publishers, 1987)
Kerry Mason (Dodd), Michael Breuer. Sunlight in the Shadows: The Landscape of Emily Carr (1984)
Marion Endicott. Emily Carr: The Story of an Artist (Women's Educational Press, 1981)
Doris Shadbolt. The Art of Emily Carr (Douglas & McIntyre, 1979)
Doris Shadbolt. Seven Journeys (Douglas & McIntyre).
Doris Shadbolt. Emily Carr (Vancouver Art Gallery, 1971. To accompany the retrospective exhibition to commemorate the 100th birthday of the artist's birth.
Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher. M.E. A Portrait of Emily Carr (Toronto: Clark Irwin, 1969). Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher. Emily Carr: The Untold Story (Hancock House Publishing, 1978).
Carol Pearson. Emily Carr As I Knew Her (Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited, 1954 / Touchwood 2016)
Emily Carr--Her Paintings and Her Sketches, with a foreword by Ira Dilworth (Oxford University Press, 1946)


Woo, The Monkey Who Inspired Emily Carr: A Biography
by Grant Hayter-Menzies; Foreword by Anita Kunz, OC
Introduction by Andrew Westoll (Douglas & McIntyre 2019)
The Forest Lover, by Susan Vreeland (Viking Canada, 2004). Historical fiction
Four Pictures by Emily Carr, by Nicolas Debon (Groundwood, 2003). Children's book.
Be Quiet, by Margaret Hollingsworth (Coteau, 2003). Fiction.
Emily Carr Country, by Courtney Milne (McClelland & Stewart, 2001). Photography.
Inward to the Bones: Georgia O'Keeffe's Journey with Emily Carr, by Kate Braid (Polestar, 1998). [See Kate Braid entry]
Dear Nan: Letters of Emily Carr, Nan Cheney, and Humphrey Toms, edited by Doreen Walker (UBC Press, 1990) ISBN: 0774803487

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Sister and I from Victoria to Londons

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2018]

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.