LOT 121

1871 - 1945

Stormy Day, Brittany
oil on board, circa 1911
signed M. Carr and on verso titled and inscribed $40.00 faintly and inscribed with provenance details on the gallery label
11 x 15 in 27.9 x 38.1 cm

Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000

Preview at: Heffel Vancouver

Howard Allan Simons, Vancouver
By descent to the daughter of the above, Whistler
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary
Private Collection, Vancouver

Emily Carr, Growing Pains: The Autobiography of Emily Carr, 1946, pages 263 and 267
Kiriko Watanabe et al., Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing—French Modernism and the West Coast, Audain Art Museum, 2019, page 13 and reproduced on pages 40 and 147

Island Arts and Crafts Society, Alexandra Club, Victoria, Fourth Annual Exhibition, October 16 - 18, 1913, catalogue #234, priced at $40.00
Audain Art Museum, Whistler, Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing—French Modernism and the West Coast, September 21, 2019 - January 19, 2020, traveling in 2020 - 2021 to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, and the Royal BC Museum, Victoria

In July 1910, Emily Carr set off for France, on an adventure that would profoundly change the direction of her artistic career. The intent of her trip was to learn the new modern methods of painting to better equip herself to capture the sweeping landscapes and First Nations totem poles of her native British Columbia. When Carr returned home 16 months later, her painting style had undergone a complete transformation as a result of her exposure to the modern art movements of Fauvism and Post-Impressionism. Through these modern art techniques, Carr learned to express emotion and feeling in her compositions through the application of bold primary colours and vigorous brushwork.

On arriving in Paris, Carr sought out the artist William Phelan (Harry) Gibb, for whom she had been provided a letter of introduction by a visiting artist in Victoria. Carr could not have been more fortunate, as Gibb was a well-connected English-speaking artist who was closely associated with the leading artists of the day in Paris. Gibb could often be found at the home of his good friend Gertrude Stein, the prominent art collector and critic, debating emerging art developments with the likes of fellow artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Juan Gris. After Carr met Gibb at his Paris studio, she expressed her awe upon seeing his paintings for the first time: “I stood by the side of Harry Gibb, staring in amazement up at his walls. Some of his pictures rejoiced, some shocked me. There was rich, delicious juiciness in his colour, interplay between warm and cool tones. He intensified vividness by the use of complementary colour.”

Carr quickly became Gibb’s eager pupil and traveled to Brittany to paint with him in the summer of 1911. Carr tramped the French countryside that summer, producing bright, colourful Fauvist paintings, of which Stormy Day, Brittany is a superb example. Gibb was so impressed with his Canadian pupil that by the end of the summer, he encouraged Carr to submit paintings to the renowned annual Salon d’Automne exhibition of modern art in Paris. Two of her paintings were accepted by the jury and hung among those by well-known artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Pierre Bonnard, Francis Picabia and Fernand Léger. Gibb sensed that Carr had the artistic gifts and vision to become one of the great artists of the world. When Carr asked Gibb why he never allowed her to see his own work, which he showed to his other students, he told her: “Don’t have to. Those others don’t know what they are after, you do. Your work must not be influenced by mine. You will be one of the painters - women painters - of your day.”

When Carr returned to British Columbia in November of 1911, she was eager to show off the accomplishments from her French sojourn. In March and April of 1912, Carr invited friends and visitors to her studio in Vancouver for an exhibition of about 70 of the works she had created in France. Although no list of the paintings shown exists, Stormy Day, Brittany was likely on display. A review of the exhibition in the Vancouver Daily Province newspaper on March 25, 1912, reported: “The pictures are interesting as indicating the trend of recent French work in the direction of brilliant color and a certain distaste for detail. By the use of almost pure color, Miss Carr obtains some startling effects of light, and her technique is of great breadth and vigor.” Stormy Day, Brittany was so favoured by Carr that she submitted the painting to the annual Island Arts and Crafts Society exhibition in Victoria in October 1913, where it was shown along with Le Paysage (Brittany Landscape), one of her two paintings that had hung at the Paris Salon d’Automne in 1911.

Stormy Day, Brittany is an outstanding example of all that Carr learned while in France. The composition is alive with colour and feeling. A sun-dappled field of wildflowers is composed of strokes of radiant pure colour that warmly welcome the viewer into the scene. The field ends in a collection of cottages huddled together and carefully highlighted in warm colour tones; they are surrounded by viridescent trees with striking yellow and blue trunks. Overshadowing this otherwise idyllic scene is an incredible sky filled with billowing storm clouds, which Carr skilfully animates with expressive brushwork that includes pink, yellow and blue highlights. Stormy Day, Brittany brilliantly demonstrates Carr’s mastery of the modern French art theories of her day, stressing the use of pure colour applied in a bold Fauvist approach that conveys the emotion of the scene.

Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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