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Emily Carr: Rebel Artist

by Kate Braid

One of Canada’s most important female artists, Emily Carr was also one of the first to sympathize deeply with First Nations people. Out of her personal struggles emerged a vivid, elemental art rooted in the West Coast landscape. Kate Braid’s accessible and engaging new biography focuses on Carr’s personal life, paying special attention to her early years.

Born into a strict Victorian family that never understood her, Emily Carr was always different. She scrimped to attend art school abroad, turned down marriage because of her commitment to art, and for years ran a boarding house to pay the bills. That her real breakthroughs occurred when she was in her 50s and were aided by friendship with another artist, Lawren Harris, is both remarkable and heartening to all struggling artists.

Braid uses as a framing device Carr’s several brief encounters with an enormous carved native figure, D’Sonoqua, a supernatural being whom Carr’s native guide calls “the wild woman of the woods.” Braid wisely uses Carr’s own impressions of this figure – rather than authentic native teachings about her, of which Carr knew very little – to suggest much about Emily’s own character. By the end of her remarkable life, Emily Carr was a “wild woman of the woods” – a new breed of independent, creative Canadian woman.

Braid’s narrative stumbles occasionally, as when she suggests that a scene will be “horrid” when it is only mildly unpleasant. Nevertheless, her thoughtful presentation of Carr’s struggles to find her true voice should be an inspiration to older readers. Several black and white reproductions of paintings, a helpful chronology of Carr’s life, and a sketch of historical context are included.


Reviewer: Joanne Findon

Publisher: XYZ Publishing


Price: $15.95

Page Count: 180 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-9683601-6-5

Released: June

Issue Date: 2000-9


Age Range: ages 15+