LOT 217

1871 - 1945

Woodland Interior
oil on paper on board, circa 1938
signed with the estate stamp and on verso inscribed "88" and with the Dominion Gallery inventory #844d
24 x 35 5/8 in, 61 x 90.5 cm

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000 CAD

Sold for: $205,250

Preview at:

Dominion Gallery, Montreal
Private Collection, Vancouver
Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 25, 2016, lot 122
The Collection of Torben V. Kristiansen, Vancouver

Doris Shadbolt, The Art of Emily Carr, 1979, a similar circa 1937 - 1940 oil on canvas entitled Sombreness Sunlit, in the collection of the BC Archives, reproduced page 131, and a similar circa 1937 - 1940 oil on canvas entitled Dancing Sunlight, in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, reproduced page 144
Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr, 2006, pages 179, 185, 273 and 282

I am circled by trees. They are full of chatter, the wind and the birds helping them. Through the sighing of the wind they tell their sorrows. Through the chortle of the birds they tell their joy.—Emily Carr, 1934

To Emily Carr, the forest was a green jungle, wild and unfettered, a place of unstoppable life and mystery. While at home in Victoria, she would long to get out into the woods and commune with nature. In her journal Hundreds and Thousands, she asked, “What attracts me in those wild, lawless, deep, solitary places?” Again and again, in each work Carr sought to capture the heart of the forest and her own experience of it—to set down the ungraspable in paint. In doing so, she created a body of work that expressed the essence of the British Columbia forest.

One of Carr’s chapters in her journal Hundreds and Thousands is entitled “A Tabernacle in the Wood,” making it clear that she found a religious experience in the forest. To attain this, she immersed herself in the forest to paint. After setting up her stool and painting materials, she settled, waiting for her vision to coalesce. In the 1930s, Carr’s method of working with oil thinned with turpentine or gasoline on paper allowed her to paint out of doors; it also gave her great freedom to work intuitively and express the stream of ideas that came to her. She wanted her subject to impose itself on her, not the other way around. Carr’s intention was to channel the spirits of nature surrounding her, and she transferred her vision to paper with bold, fluid strokes, at the same time experiencing an elevated state of consciousness.

To Carr, trees were animate beings. She painted ancient old-growth giants reaching for the sky, young, slender evergreens dancing in the wind, fallen trees and broken stumps. Trees in all stages of their life cycle, emerging from and returning to the earth, were fascinating to her, and she had a tendency to anthropomorphize them. She wrote of “the awful solemnity of the age-old trees, with the wisdom of all their years of growth looking down on you, making you feel perfectly infinitesimal.” Then, at the opposite pole, she expressed her delight with young trees, such as “little frivolous pines, very bright and green as to tips. The wind passes over them gaily, ruffling their merry, fluffy tops and sticking-out petticoats.”

In this inner forest work, a solemn grove of trees in the foreground is lit from behind by a golden green glow created by light filtering through the canopy into a clearing and striking rolling mounds of soft moss and grass. Streaks of pink and orange further warm this inviting space. Carr’s trees here have a distinctive style seen in the late 1930s—a segmentation of tree trunks into rings, formed by short, horizontal strokes of paint. This stylization recalls the inner growth rings in trees, which indicate the age of the tree. In the slender background trees, these rings open up and show space in between, a manifestation of the dematerialization of form in the stream of energy pulsing through the forest.

Carr was very conscious of energy moving through all parts of the forest, rolling up from the ground and moving like an electrical current through the tree trunks and up into the canopy, merging into one great pulse of life. The imperative of creation is unstoppable, and Carr perceived that from the earth “rushes again the great green ocean of growth. The air calls to it. The light calls to it. The moisture. It hears them. It is there waiting. Up it bursts; it will not be kept back. It is life itself, strong, bursting life.” Woodland Interior is Carr's stirring visual poem to that life.

For the biography on Torben V. Kristiansen in PDF format, please click here.

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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