1871 - 1945
Strait of Juan de Fuca
oil on paper on board, circa 1935
signed and on verso inscribed with the Dominion Gallery inventory #G8782 and "Collection: Dr. and Mrs. Max Stern" on a label and stamped Dominion Gallery
21 x 31 1/2 in 53.3 x 80 cm
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
Sold for: $175,500
Preview at: Heffel Vancouver
Collection of Dr. and Mrs. Max Stern, Montreal
Sold sale of Canadian Art and International Works, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 9, 1995, lot 68
Private Collection, USA
G. Blair Laing, Memoirs of an Art Dealer, 1979, page 150
Doris Shadbolt, Emily Carr, 1990, pages 180 and 182
Emily Carr, The Complete Writings of Emily Carr, 1993, pages 735, 736 and 736
Glenbow Museum, Calgary, temporary loan, label on verso
Emily Carr’s biographer Doris Shadbolt notes, “The sketches of the years 1933 to 1936 when she had the van are her most direct and free, and the times when she was living in it and working from it were surely the most blissful of her adult years.” By the mid 1930s, Carr had acquired a sense of spiritual and artistic contentment that she had not possessed before. This inner peace would spread into her work and her relationships. It was also a time of freedom, when she traveled in her beloved canvas-topped trailer which she had outfitted as a camper van and christened The Elephant. Along with her pets, she set up at places such as Cordova Bay for extended stays, where she could sketch from numerous vantage points overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the location depicted in this joyously rolling, rhythmic work. Her happiness seems embedded in the very lines left by her brush as the leaping sky races upward and the blue of the sea rushes in to meet the cliffs. Everything is swirling and wildly alive. Since 1932 she had been working in oil on manila paper using a unique mixture of white house paint, gasoline and oil paint, partly out of necessity due to her lack of money for supplies, but also because she found it suited her so well, giving her the freedom to paint gesturally and fluidly in a manner more akin to watercolour than oil. She stated, “It is a kind of sketchy medium I have used for the last three or four years. Oil paint used thin with gasoline on paper…..It is inexpensive, light to carry and allows great freedom of thought and action.” She found that her subjects – the forests and beaches of Vancouver Island – when conveyed through this loose method of oil on paper, satisfied her immensely. Her journals note the delighted pleasure she found in this kind of work: “I am keenly interested and I do feel I put more of myself into them, a great deal more, than a year or so back when I was thinking design and pattern…..I am painting my own vision now, thinking of no one else’s approach, trying to express my own reactions.” She worked rapidly, often producing three or four large sketches a day. Even her sister Lizzie, Carr’s constant critic, found these mature works moving. This contentment grew as Carr became interested in how people responded to her work, something she had dismissed in the past, finding herself moved to tears by admiring letters.
She loved the place where the sea, the sky and the land met. Carr felt that “The air and the earth and the sea seemed to be holding some splendid wonderful secret, folding it up between them and saying to you, ‘Peep and guess. If you guess right you can have it.’ ”
This work came to auction originally from the private collection of famed art dealer Dr. Max Stern of Montreal's Dominion Gallery, who rivaled the efforts of dealer G. Blair Laing to acquire works from Carr to sell. As Laing related, “Max Stern had already gained an insurmountable advantage in actually having met Emily Carr in that autumn of 1943, making the trip at precisely the right moment…..he had read her potentials accurately and pressed his advantage…..imparting his dealing philosophy to both Harris and Carr…..to retain exclusive and complete control over the sale of her work.” Stern would handle works from her estate exclusively, and was able to select those that he thought were outstanding for his own collection. Strait of Juan de Fuca is indeed one such work, a remarkably fine oil on paper depicting one of Carr’s most favoured sketching locations.
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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