1871 - 1945
oil on paper on board, June 1939
signed Emily Carr and on verso titled, inscribed variously and with the Dominion Gallery inventory #B132 on the Dominion Gallery label and stamped Dominion Gallery
34 x 22 5/8 in 86.4 x 57.5 cm
Estimate: $175,000 - $225,000
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto
Private Collection, Ontario
Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher, Emily Carr: The Untold Story, 1978, pages 138 and 139
Emily Carr worked extensively from the landscape throughout her life. Initially her studies were watercolours, and it was in the early 1930s that, searching for a more forceful medium than watercolour, Carr turned to oil on paper. This new medium offered Carr several things: the paper was inexpensive and easily portable, and oil paint, thinned with gasoline, allowed Carr to work with the freedom of watercolour but with more vibrant colour. Carr worked directly from the landscape, producing oils on paper throughout the 1930s and into the early 1940s; her last painting trip occurred in 1942. These works were originally conceived of in the spirit of many of her on-the-spot watercolours, as studies for canvases that would be worked up in the studio. Carr soon realized, however, that these works could function as complete works in themselves.
Throughout the 1930s, Carr went on several sketching trips around Victoria. These trips began in May 1931 and continued every year until 1942, with the exceptions of 1937 and 1941. Several of these sketching trips were made in June, including those in the years 1932 through 1936 and 1939. It seems most likely that this work was done in June 1939. Carr had suffered a second heart attack early that year and was unable to work for several months. As Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher recounts, “When the doctor finally told her in late May that she was well enough to return to the woods, she was jubilant.” Carr had, with the aid of friends who drove her, found a small house in the Langford area, west of the city, and rented it for the month of June for the princely sum of $7.50. It provided her with “six rooms, big verandahs back and front, and fifteen acres of complete privacy.” Her only co-habitants were some well-behaved rats, which prompted her friend Humphrey Toms to christen the house “Rat Hall.” Carr was anxious to get back to work and was excited to do so.
It is likely that June is Carr’s title for this work, and the sheer joy of the image suggests that it was a work done in June of 1939, when, after enforced idleness early in the year due to her heart attack, Carr would have felt the pleasure of returning to the woods deeply. Indeed, Hembroff-Schleicher reports that Carr “enjoyed the sojourn at Langford ‘mightily’ despite poor weather.”
A sense of jubilance is clearly seen in June, and the work relates to images from the late thirties such as Above the Trees (collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery). The highly activated sky is here contrasted with the vividly depicted foliage of the woods. The variety of greens suggests the new growth of spring, and the trees seem to reach up towards the sky. Carr felt no need to provide us with a pathway into the composition - rather we are immediately confronted by the forest. Her decision to make the right foreground darker in colour provides the growth with a sense of layering, and thus defines space within the lower part of the image. The whole composition moves upward, however, and the trees seem to rejoice in the embrace of the swirling sky. Carr has used her medium well and we clearly see the effects of her swift brushwork. Here the means are remarkably matched to the subject – the movement in the sky and the vibrant force of the growing forest.
We thank Ian M. Thom, Senior Curator - Historical at the Vancouver Art Gallery from 1988 to 2018, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $175,000 - $225,000
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