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Emily Carr: At the Edge of the World    by Jo Ellen Bogart & Maxwell Newhouse order for
Emily Carr
by Jo Ellen Bogart
Order:  USA  Can
Tundra, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jo Ellen Bogart introduces artist Emily Carr, born in 1871 to a genteel family 'at the edge of the world' (it took 5 hours to get to the mainland by ferry) in Victoria, British Columbia. It's an accessible biography of an extraordinary artist, enhanced by lovely reproductions of her paintings, and by Maxwell Newhouse's appealing folk art sketches.

In that time, a young woman was expected to marry, not to make art a life's work, and Emily had to struggle to achieve her ambition. She taught art to children in BC, studied for a time in Europe, and, fascinated by West coast Native peoples, 'made it her mission to paint as many Native carvings as she could'. Several, in evolving styles, are shown in the book.

After another trip to Europe and studies in France, Emily adopted Post-Impressionism and her works began to be exhibited, though response was not as enthusiastic as she hoped. She enjoyed her pets, including sheepdogs and a Javanese monkey called Woo (there's a portrait of Woo in a dress made by the artist). Emily's art always came first, and she seemed eccentric to others - I love the story of the hanging chairs!

In 1927 Emily Carr's work was exhibited at the National Gallery and she met, and was accepted by, the talented Group of Seven. This opened a 'whole new chapter in her life', and her works evolved and won more and more recognition. She began to write as well, and stories, such as Klee Wyck were published. She died in 1945.

Emily Carr : At the Edge of the World is a fascinating account, of interest to anyone to whom the artist's work appeals, and to those following their own dream of success in the arts. The author tells us that Emily 'relied, in the end, on her own vision' - as should we all.

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