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1945: Artist Emily Carr dies in Victoria

The Story


Fiercely independent and complex, Emily Carr is a rebel, a recluse and a feminist before her time. And on March 2, 1945, the passionate painter and writer dies at her home in Victoria, B.C. Her distinctive palette is inspired by an insatiable fascination with native culture and the landscape of Carr's cherished British Columbia. And, as this 1963 CBC Radio interview with fellow painter A.Y. Jackson illustrates, it was her eccentricity and a friendship with the Group of Seven that first brought Carr prominence as an artist and a significant reputation.

Medium: Radio
Program: Matinee Highlights
Broadcast Date: March 2, 1963
Guest(s): A.Y. Jackson
Host: Pat Patterson
Duration: 2:04
Photo: Courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives - Call Number: D-03843

Did You know?


• Emily Carr was born in Victoria, B.C., on Dec. 13, 1871. She was the second-youngest of nine children (three of whom died as infants), and by 1888, both parents had passed away. Carr spent most of her life on Vancouver Island but the study of art brought her to San Francisco for three years, England for five plus she spent one year in France.

• Carr's attraction to native culture began early, starting in 1898, when she took extended visits to native communities. These trips inspired Carr to paint a collection of totem pole images for which she would become well known.

• In 1913, after a number of failed attempts to gain recognition for her native art, Carr temporarily gave up on her career as a painter. She then bought a home in Victoria, which she named "House of All Sorts" and converted it into a boarding house. For the next 15 years Carr worked and lived as a landlady. Today, House of All Sorts is a private residence.

• In 1927, Carr's painting career was revived when the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa exhibited some of her work in a show of West Coast art. The exhibition finally enabled Carr to establish a reputation and an acceptance among the art community in Canada. And it was through the exhibit that she met and began a close friendship with the Group of Seven, most particularly Lawren Harris. Her relationship with the group and their support of her work would prove to be invaluable, as it gave her artistry a renewed focus and direction.

• Aside from a career as a painter, Carr was a respected and popular writer. One of her books, Klee Wyck, published in 1941, documented her experiences living with the native people in British Columbia. It won the Governor General's Award that same year. And in the 1940s excerpts from Klee Wyck were read as part of special CBC Radio broadcasts. In fact, as a result of these readings, many Canadians were first introduced to Emily Carr as a writer - not a painter.

• The title Klee Wyck originated from the nickname given to her by one of the native communities she befriended, the Tlingit First Nation of British Columbia. It means "the laughing one."

• Carr was often frustrated with the residents of Victoria whom she regarded as highly conservative. In response to those who frowned at her independence, rebelliousness and single status, Carr was heard to exclaim, "Victoria is more English than the English!"

• One of her reputed eccentricities included living out of a caravan, a trailer with wheels that she had stationed in the woods of B.C. Another involved her roommates: she lived with a number of different animals, including her beloved pet monkey Woo.

• Carr was known for her intensity, complexity and, at times, a darkness. Admitting that she was often her own worst enemy Carr once commented, "Life is like a game of musical chairs, when the music stops, I never get a seat in time."

• After many years battling heart ailments, Carr died at the age of 73 in Victoria, B.C.


Also on March 2:
1993: Proceedings of the Supreme Court of Canada are televised for the first time. The hearing involved a self-employed Toronto lawyer's challenge to federal tax laws regarding daycare expenses. The Court dimissed the appeal.
2000: World and Olympic champion curler Sandra Schmirler dies of cancer at the age of 36. Schmirler skipped her team to three world-curling titles from 1993 to 1997 and the first gold for women's curling at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.


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