LOT 113

1871 - 1945

Forest Interior
oil on paper on board, circa 1937
signed Emily Carr and on verso inscribed "92" / "22316" / "28"
22 x 34 in, 55.9 x 86.4 cm

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000 CAD

Sold for: $277,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Collection of M. Aitken, Alberta
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary, 1981
Estate of Ken Stephenson, Calgary

Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr, 2006, pages 155, 267, 282 and 283

This lush and energized Emily Carr painting is one of her “woods movement” works (as she described them), which focus on light and energy in the inner forest. In this extraordinary painting, the light manifests everywhere, with no single source, and the mood is spritely and playful. Carr used light green, blue, mauve and yellow hues in her palette, and as a result, Forest Interior feels like spring in the woods. The forest floor is thick with growth. In her journal Hundreds and Thousands, on November 28, 1935, Carr wrote of her desire to capture this profuse growth:

Working on jungle. How I want to get that thing!...

There are the fallen logs and mossy stumps, the thousand varieties of growth…young pines and spruce piercing up through the tangle to get to the quiet light diluted through the overhanging branches of great overtopping trees. Should you sit down, the great, dry, green sea would sweep over and engulf you…face it calmly, claiming relationship, standing honestly before the trees, recognizing one Creator of you and them, one life pulsing through all, one mystery engulfing all…

Taking this approach, Carr seized the essence of the inner forest. In Forest Interior, bursts of growth break out, barely contained. The forest floor and trees are full of rollicking movement. Patterns of growth on the forest floor move every which way and the forest background in the upper half of the painting rushes diagonally to the left, while the vertical trees act as anchor posts. Carr used a stylization in the trees that is typical of her work in this time period: the trunks are not solid, but built with segmented horizontal strokes, which creates a dematerialization of their density. This results in the trees being more in harmony with the whole painting, with its focus on depicting energy in the forest.

In her journal Carr offered an insight into her method of building a composition, writing, “When you want depth in a woods picture avoid sharp edges and contrasts. Mould for depth, letting the spaces sink and sink back and back, warm alternating with cool colour. Build and build forward and back.” In Forest Interior, the bare manila paper Carr used for her oil on paper works shows through in places, darkened to orange through time, and rich greens highlight her spring-like palette. In another eloquent passage from her journals, she wrote, “When light shimmers on colours, folds them round and round, colour is swallowed by glory and becomes unspeakable.” Her energized brushwork, facilitated by her oil on paper medium, in which oil was thinned with turpentine or gasoline, was fluid – she sometimes applied paint thinly, sometimes built it up in textural effects. Carr wielded her brush with great freedom, and this allowed her to express the energy of the landscape.

Carr was interested in the cycle of life in the forest, and here she includes a large stump, the remains of an old-growth giant that once must have towered above the other trees nearby. Around it is the evidence of regeneration – small trees that appear to dance beside it, and dark evergreens behind it. Carr tended to anthropomorphize the small trees, finding a joyousness in their movements, sometimes describing them as playfully swirling and dancing. She felt everything in nature keenly when she painted out of doors, describing what she saw in both words and paint with sensuousness and insight. Carr experienced a higher force that ran through everything, that “one life” and “one mystery” that is the energy of Creation. Forest Interior, an outstanding woods movement work, is an exultant manifestation of Carr’s beliefs.

For the biography on Ken Stephenson in PDF format please click here.

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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