LOT 110

1871 - 1945

Pine Tree in Forest
oil on paper on board, circa 1935
signed and on verso titled, inscribed with the Dominion Gallery Inventory #D128 on the gallery label and variously and stamped twice with the Dominion Gallery stamp
36 x 24 in, 91.4 x 61 cm

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

Sold for: $421,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Montreal, 1952
By descent to the present Private Collection, Ontario

Doris Shadbolt, The Art of Emily Carr, 1979, the 1931 canvas featuring pines entitled The Little Pine, collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, reproduced page 102
Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr, 2006, page 350

In the early 1930s, Emily Carr moved away from her formal period of stylized volumetric depictions of forests. In 1927, during her trip back east to attend the National Gallery’s Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art: Native and Modern, in which her work was included, she had seen the work of Lawren Harris, and his open, infinite, spirtualized spaces had a strong effect on her. The concept of a fusion of art and religious experience greatly appealed to her. She began to depict more open woods, treetops and beaches with open skies, and her deep woods subjects transformed. As Doris Shadbolt wrote, “Having explored the dark, forbidding side of nature, Carr began to express its animating life and joy.”

Changes in her style ensued—and her central idea became the movement of energy through nature. She began to work in oil on paper, and this new medium facilitated her expression of this movement. The oil was diluted with turpentine and even gasoline, making it fluid like watercolour, while still retaining the colour intensity, and she painted on sheets of manila paper, which were so lightweight that she could take them to her painting sites. Her brushwork became very free, and with sweeping gestures, she would depict her subject as she perceived it with her inner eye, roiling with energy.

Carr often featured pines in her forest paintings, such as in the 1931 canvas The Little Pines (collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery), and she expressed her appreciation of them in her journal, published as Hundreds and Thousands:

The pines are wonderful, a regular straight-from-the-shoulder tree. From root to sky no twist, no deviation. They know no crookedness, from trunk to branch-top hurled straight out, with needles straight as sewing needles…In spring she dances a bit more. How her lines do twirl and whirl in tender green tips! She loves you to touch her, answering in intoxicating perfume stronger than any words. I’d rather live in a pine land than anywhere else. There is a delicious, honourable straightness to them.

Pine Tree in Forest is a superb inner forest work featuring two young pine trees. It is the precursor for the canvas Singing Trees sold by Heffel in June 2022, lot 120. In both works, Carr emphasizes the central pine with golden lines along its branches and at the very top, making it particularly vibrant. It is accompanied by a young pine in the lower right, green and luminous. Their bright spirits dominate the painting, as they stand out in the foreground against an enclosed forest backdrop. Carr’s use of lines to delineate tree trunks and branches in the wall of growth is very modern. Bright dabs of white and yellow indicate glimmers of light breaking through the inner forest. Her brushwork is energized, expressing the continuous wave of energy that she perceived rolling through the landscape in a mostly horizontal movement.

Carr loved being in the woods to paint. It was her place of worship—here she could be completely free from societal expectations and open herself up and be at one with nature. Here she could look for “something indescribable, so light it can be crushed by a heavy thought, so tender even our enthusiasm can wilt it, as mysterious as tears.” In Pine Tree in Forest, she found it.

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

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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