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LOT 123

Emily Carr
1871 - 1945

oil on paper on canvas
signed and on verso titled on the Laing Galleries label
24 x 18 1/4 in 61 x 46.4 cm

Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000

Sold for: $391,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Laing Galleries, Toronto
Sold sale of Important Canadian Art, Sotheby's Canada in association with Ritchie's, November 20, 2006, lot 156
Private Collection, Ontario

Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr, 2006, pages 49, 56 and 57

“Last night I dreamed that I came face to face with a picture I had done and forgotten, a forest done in simple movement, just forms of trees moving in space. That is the third time I have seen pictures in my dreams, a glint of what I am striving to attain…Every day I long for the woods more, to get away and commune with things. Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration.”

- Emily Carr

To Emily Carr, getting out into the woods to sketch was a spiritual experience – for her, the trees expressed “glory and strength and power, tenderness and protection.” She loved to feel the continuous process of life always unfolding in the forest. In Spring, she expressed this in the central explosion of growth, in which a tree trunk – dead, but still standing - appears to be embraced by the young evergreens around it. The whole scene is in a twirl of motion, starting from the strokes of brown in the lower right, moving up on the diagonal in a circular manner around the motif of glowing green vegetation in the centre, and then rising to the large evergreen at the top and a glimpse of sky behind.

For Carr, there was a covert language in the woods – she sought to enter into the life of the trees, to feel “the secret internal yearnings, wonderings, seekings, findings.” When she went into the woods alone, she perceived the imperative of growth there – vegetation bursting out of the ground, lifting up towards air and light, “each one knowing what to do, each one demanding its own rights on earth. Feel this growth,” she wrote, “the surging upward, this expansion, the pulsing life, all working with the same idea, the same urge to express the God in themselves…”

Carr’s use of oil on paper in the 1930s helped her to express the freedom and movement she perceived in the woods. Thinned with turpentine or gasoline, her new medium had the fluidity of watercolour yet the richness of oil, and its consistency enabled her to paint on manila paper with sweeping brush-strokes. It allowed her to express a dematerialized landscape that revealed its inner reality – a vibrating energy. This work is particularly rich in colouration – greens range from emerald to light-filled peridot and yellow, and blues fluctuate from strokes of teal and washes of pale blue to an electric tone in the sky. The use of pink adds to the exultant, light-filled atmosphere. Carr’s brush-strokes, in their variation from vertical to horizontal, carry movement like ladders from bottom to top, creating rolling, rising and circling rhythms.

Spring is an outstanding and joyous oil on paper work, pulsating with life and inspiring us to “draw deeply from the good nourishment of the earth but rise into the glory of the light and air and sunshine,” as Carr exhorted herself to do.

Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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