LOT 138

Emily Carr
1871 - 1945

Autumn Woods
oil on paper on board, circa 1935
signed and on verso titled and inscribed "No. 22 $50" on the artist's label
24 x 35 3/4 in 61 x 90.8 cm

Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000

Sold for: $222,300

Preview at: Heffel Vancouver

Acquired directly from the Artist
By descent to a Private Collection, Vancouver
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 9, 2001, lot 252
Private Collection, USA

Doris Shadbolt, The Art of Emily Carr, 1979, a similar oil on paper entitled Laughing Forest reproduced page 157
Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands, The Journals of Emily Carr, 2006, page 265

Emily Carr’s practice of using diluted oil paints to sketch on paper was initially adopted as a replacement method for her watercolour sketches, since she found that a heavier, more opaque pigment was needed to convey the visual force she wished to capture. By the early 1930s, she was fully engaged with the sensory energy that she saw in the sea, sky and forest, and watercolour was simply insufficient. She began to use thinned oils and large sheets of manila paper around 1931, and soon realized that these works had a completeness of expression that did not always need further exploration through a studio version of the work. She had always sought to capture the moment of inspiration in her art, and this rapid-fire method of execution put this moment within her artistic grasp. Carr declared, “What I am after is out there in the woods – even the sketches to me are canned food. I like it fresh. Carry it right home and use it.”
Carr deeply believed in the idea of conveying the spiritual in these landscapes. In January of 1934, she attended the lectures of Raja Singh, a Christian Hindu and associate of Mahatma Ghandi who was lecturing in Victoria. His blend of Hindu and Christian beliefs aligned with Carr’s foundational Christianity and love of the natural world, and seemed to her a perfect balance. Carr felt that God was alive in all parts of nature, and this affirmation of her God-of-the-woods seemed to breathe a sense of spiritual freedom into her work. In Autumn Woods, there is a unity of form and rhythm that brings the scene alive – we see one vibrating, quivering, breathing flow of life rather than distinct trees, rock forms, or windswept grasses. The work is full of the light and movement that was now possible for her to capture with an oily, slick and rapidly moving brush. Carr was skilled at using the negative space and the warm colour of the manila paper – which this work in particular preserves – as an earthy, supportive part of her palette. With the freedom of her camper van and this new method, she took long sketching trips in the summer and fall months which she felt were successful and rewarding. She would choose a spot, set herself up and then wait (usually while having a cigarette) for the moment of inspiration. When Carr’s awareness had sharpened, she would begin to see “themes everywhere, something sublime, something ridiculous, or joyous, or calm, or mysterious. Tender youthfulness laughing at gnarled oldness. Moss and ferns, and leaves and twigs, light and air, depth and colour chattering, dancing a mad joy-dance, but only apparently tied up in stillness and silence. You must be still in order to hear and see.” For a painter who thought this way, who responded to nature in this deeply felt emotive manner, using the method of oil on paper must have felt like learning to speak the language of the forest. Autumn Woods is an extremely fine example of her success with this method. It is both finished and fresh, a skilled blend of completion and spontaneity.

Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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