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Emily Carr’s radical transformation to be revealed at the Audain Art Museum this fall

Emily Carr's Le Paysage (Brittany Landscape) painting.
Emily Carr's Le Paysage (Brittany Landscape) painting. — Photo courtesy Audain Art Museum

A bold undertaking by the Audain Art Museum (AAM) uncovers new information about dramatic changes in Emily Carr’s approach to painting over the course of three critical years: 1910 to 1912. Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing – French Modernism and the West Coast investigates Carr’s momentous journey to France (1910-1911) that broke the bonds of her conservative art training.

Drawn from national and international public, private and corporate collections, this exhibition provides a rare opportunity for AAM visitors to view over 50 paintings, watercolours, and drawings by Carr, along with a selection of works by Carr’s instructors whose work directly influenced her artistic development. These include English painter Henry William Phelan Gibb, Scottish painter John Duncan Fergusson and New Zealand watercolourist Frances Hodgkins.

Opening September 21, 2019, Fresh Seeing is presented by RBC with the support of major sponsors Heffel Fine Art Auction House and Tom and Teresa Gautreau, as well as financial assistance from the Government of Canada through the Museum Assistance Program.

“Through our partnership on this exhibition, we are proud to introduce the next generation of Canadians to the brilliance of West Coast modernist, Emily Carr,” commented Martin Thibodeau, regional president, British Columbia, RBC Royal Bank. “RBC has a long-standing priority of supporting the arts in British Columbia, and the role they play in building vibrant and diverse communities. Artists like Emily Carr help shape our appreciation and understanding of the world, past and present.”

Fresh Seeing centers on Carr's transformation after returning from France to the West Coast of Canada. In a speech made in Victoria in 1930, Carr sought to explain modern art, proclaiming that “Creative Art” is “fresh seeing” to a baffled audience. She asked, “What about our side of Canada? The Great West? Standing before us, big and strong, and beautiful? What art do we want for her art? Ancient or modern?” She implored, “Canadian painters must strive to express Canada. Misty landscapes and gentle cows do not express Western Canada, even the cows know that.”

The exhibition also highlights the AAM’s recent acquisition of a remarkable Carr painting, Le Paysage (Brittany Landscape), that was featured in 1911 at the famed Salon d’Automne exhibition in Paris. Occurring annually, the Salon presented works by prominent artists such as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, and Marcel Duchamp.

AAM founder Michael Audain’s passion and curiosity for Carr’s French period has been the impetus behind this important project. “For the work of an unrecognized artist from Victoria, B.C. to have been featured at such a prestigious international exhibition during the early 1900s was unprecedented,” explained Audain. “As a young woman, Emily Carr was truly ahead of her time. Travelling to France set the stage for Carr’s recognition as one of our country’s most important artists.”

Fresh Seeing is co-curated by Kiriko Watanabe, the AAM’s Gail & Stephen A. Jarislowsky curator and Carr expert Dr. Kathryn Bridge. After the exhibition ends at the AAM on January 19, 2020, it will travel to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick. 

About the Audain Art Museum

Opened in 2016, the Audain Art Museum is a major philanthropic gift by Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa. Located in Whistler, B.C., this cultural asset was designed by Patkau Architects. AAM’s permanent collection celebrates artistic difference in B.C. from the late 18th century to present. Highlights include James Hart’s The Dance Screen (The Scream Too), an important collection of 19th and 20th century First Nations masks, and works by some of Canada’s most celebrated artists. In addition, the AAM hosts dynamic and relevant exhibitions from Canada and around the world and offers a variety of educational programs.

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