Lot Sale Results

Emily Carr
Fine Canadian Art Fall 2005 Live auction

Lot # 114

Emily Carr
BCSFA CGP 1871 - 1945 Canadian

Chatle, Q.C.I.
oil on board
signed, titled and dated 1912
38 x 13 in  96.5 x 33cm

By descent to the present Private Collection, Toronto

Maria Tippett, Emily Carr: A Biography, 1979, page 104
Paula Blanchard, The Life of Emily Carr, 1987, pages 131 - 132

Emily Carr’s First Nations subjects begin with small annotations in sketchbooks done around Victoria during the 1890s, but in these works the incidental elements are only a minor part of a landscape composition. In 1898, at the age of 27, Carr journeyed to Ucluelet and produced a number of fine watercolours and drawings of the people of the village. It was not, however until 1907, during a trip to Alaska with her sister Alice, and following an encounter with the American painter, Theodore Richardson, that Carr resolved to make the villages and poles of the First Nations people her major subject matter. Like many others, Carr at this period believed that First Nations communities and cultures were dying and that her images would help preserve a rapidly vanishing past.

Carr traveled to France in 1910, to immerse herself in the exciting new modern art influences occurring there. She studied with artists John Duncan Fergusson, Phelan Gibb and Frances Hodgkins, and began to leave her conservative painting style behind. A profound change germinated in her approach to colour – she began to use bright, unnatural hues, and to use colour for its visual and emotive qualities, rather than its descriptive powers.

When Carr returned to Canada in 1911 she was a different artist, now possessing the visual tools to capture her subject convincingly. In 1912, Carr began an extensive trip that originated at Alert Bay and wandered down the Skeena River, finally reaching the Queen Charlotte Islands via the steamer Prince John. After a 5-day tour on the Prince John, she left the boat at Skidegate to explore remote villages with an Indian guide. From Skidegate she crossed Skidegate Inlet to Maude Island, and then through narrow Skidegate Channel to reach Chatle (also referred to as Chaatl). Blanchard writes, “At Chaatl, barely sheltered from the full fury of the Pacific, the visitors had to shout to be heard above the roar of the punishing surf. There the campfire stories were full of ‘ghosts and supernatural things – tomtoms that beat themselves, animals that spoke like men, bodies of great chiefs…’.” During this momentous journey deep into Haida territory, Tippett writes, “Emily discovered villages she had never dreamed existed: some hung deep with moss, grown over with bracken, salal, and beach grass; others filled with weather-silvered totem poles and broad-beamed community houses; still others hugging white clam-shelled beaches or lost in dark green second-growth vegetation…”

In Chatle, Carr depicts the power that such totems radiated into the landscape, even as the landscape was beginning to engulf them. The discoveries she made on her trip to France are fully integrated into her work, with the rich colour palette in the radiant sky and bright foliage giving expressive energy to this painting. Carr has arrived as a mature painter, fully able to express her deep feelings for these poignantly eroding emblems of coastal native culture.

Estimate: $175,000 ~ $225,000 CAD

Sold For: $431,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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