Lot # 101
Fall 2017 - 2nd Session Live auction

Emily Carr
BCSFA CGP 1871 - 1945 Canadian

Indian Encampment, Vancouver
watercolour on paper circa 1908 ~ 1909
signed M Carr
9 7/8 x 13 3/4 in  25.1 x 34.9cm

Provenance:
Acquired from the Artist by Ira Dilworth
By descent through the family to the present Private Collection, Ontario

Literature:
Maria Tippett, Emily Carr: A Biography, 1979, for Carr in Vancouver, pages 67 – 82
Emily Carr, Growing Pains, 2005, pages 252 – 253 and 257
Gerta Moray, Unsettling Encounters: First Nations Imagery in the Art of Emily Carr, 2006, for Carr’s work in Vancouver, pages 79 - 89 and 150 – 151

Emily Carr painted this delicately observed, atmospheric scene on the shores of False Creek during her Vancouver period of 1906 to 1910. She shows us several families, probably Coast Salish, who have beached their canoes and rowboats and set up tarpaulin tents to cook their meal between a railway embankment and some industrial storage sheds. They may have been camped here in order to use their traditional fishing grounds - the sandbank that was later filled in to become Granville Island was still a location where the Squamish and the Musqueam set their fish traps - or to earn cash by selling fish and game to Vancouver’s settler population, or to find work in the local sawmills. Behind them is the CPR rail bridge, the famous “Kits trestle,” which spanned False Creek between Granville Street and the Kitsilano Indian Reserve, carrying trains south to Steveston and Lulu Island. Beyond the bridge is a jumble of roofs - warehouses, lumber companies and factories.
The first decade of the twentieth century saw Vancouver’s settler population quadruple. Houses were springing up like mushrooms, the planners’ grid of city blocks filling in and sucking up the surrounding forests to be turned into building materials in the scores of sawmills that now crusted the shores of False Creek and Burrard Inlet. In the midst of this boom Carr had established a studio at 570 Granville Street, and was earning her living teaching highly successful art classes for children. She emphasized the outdoor plein air painting and direct observation that she had learned in England. She later stated, “I took my classes into the woods and along Vancouver's waterfront to sketch...We sat on beaches over which great docks and stations are now built, we clambered up and down wooded banks solid now with Vancouver’s commercial buildings.”
Carr’s painting subjects included Vancouver’s coastal islands, farms and woodlands, and the giant trees of Stanley Park filtering the sunlight. In England her approach to the landscape had included its inhabitants, as she sketched the fisher folk of St. Ives in Cornwall. Now, in 1907, a tourist cruise to Alaska took her past traditional Native villages with their community houses and carved totem poles, and she immediately saw in them remarkable local subject matter. From her sketching trips to Kwakwaka’wakw territories in 1908 to 1909, she brought back dramatic watercolours of totem poles and village scenes to exhibit in Vancouver.
However, the watercolour Indian Encampment, Vancouver shows that Carr was not just on a quest for exotic, picturesque subjects. She was deeply interested in the local Indigenous population. She recorded in her writings that she visited the “Indian reserve at Kitsilano and the North Vancouver Indian Mission,” where she was introduced as a friend by the Squamish basket weaver Sophie Frank, and made sketches and portraits of many members of the community. In this watercolour, she introduces into the Vancouver scene the everyday lives and continuing presence of First Nations people.
Unlike the brusque juxtaposition in an 1898 photograph of the Vancouver harbour area, as illustrated, Carr's image is full of subtle nuances. Her muted blue and sepia washes unite the partially overcast sky and glassy water into a luminous space, which she anchors with more sombre earthy browns and greens, punctuated with the red touches of fabrics. The verticals and horizontals of bridge, buildings and masts are skilfully balanced, while the composition divides on a diagonal - to the right is an Indigenous world in harmony with the land, to the left and rear the eruption of an industrial Vancouver. In her treatment of the figures Carr creates a tension between intimacy and distance - those more distant are engaged in their communal activities, but the figures in the right foreground look out at us, one of them cupping his mouth as though calling to us. This fine watercolour repays prolonged contemplation, revealing Carr’s deft rendering of many carefully chosen details. It is a significant landmark in her lifelong quest to understand and render the British Columbia environment, while making common cause with the Indigenous population in that search.
We thank Gerta Moray, author of Unsettling Encounters: First Nations Imagery in the Art of Emily Carr, for contributing the above essay.
This work was recently featured in the Vancouver Sun. Please click here to learn more.

Estimate: $50,000 ~ $70,000 CAD  
Sold for: $229,250 CAD (including Buyer's Premium)

All prices are in Canadian Dollars.

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