An Odd1's Reviews > Emily Carr

Emily Carr by Maria Tippett
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's review
Sep 04, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: fan

Added images to blog
118 illustrations (many color), excellent index broken down into people, pictures, exhibitions, travels, 22 pg references

1871-1945 Victoria British Columbia, studied in Paris and England despite seasickness enroute, produced incredibly emotionally and physically moving deep green forests and totem record. Impressive research from artist's journals, notebooks, correspondence, interviews, other books, set beside timely photographs, some, like Blunden Harbor p179, obviously the basis p164. Her work clearly responded to influences; dated text next to sweeping abstract icy slopes of Group of Seven Lawren Harris or huge desert florals of American Georgia O'Keefe.

Highly offensive to state as fact the out-dated diagnosis of hysteria, spinster frigidity, after documented distressing drastic pain in head and elsewhere ("headache" mis-labels intense agony that drove at least Virginia Woolf to suicide, proven symptom of inflammatory disorder lupus) treated with electro-shock, fad diets leading to such obesity that eventually contributed to heart and stroke circulatory death.

The generally hostile youngest of five girls demanded attention, and basked in regular walks with religious papa who died suffering severe gout (toes burning scalded, swollen ready to explode, immobilized stuck solid, even one over-runs the pain meter, related to lupus). At puberty, he did an unspecified nasty, implies he may have waved his bits around and tried to demonstrate the facts of life, but could have just verbally outraged her Victorian proprieties. Secrecy increases criminal possibilities. She set back her own education, repeatedly refused the third step in proscribed teaching regime - copy statues, fruit still life, life models - for decades.

I could re-read, understand more, and never tire of the visual stimulation. Years ago, I researched possible famous historical figures who may have had undiagnosed lupus, and remember significant points. Overall, she loved animals, pets or children who provided unequivocal devotion, hated people. Copious letters could pour out lavish affection, but longest relationships were with Indians or cripples she could put on stereotypical Victorian condescending pedestal - supposedly simple, pure of heart, close to Nature and God. She obsessed on published negative criticism, denigrated praise, and did her rejecting first, before cause, especially sisters, even Alice who gave and forgave mortgage. Selfish, unpleasant, incredibly talented, poverty led to innovation - house paint and turpentine on paper instead of tiny oil tubes on canvas, local river clay for Indian motif pottery touristy gimcracks - would like to see larger images elsewhere.
Describes autobiography as non-sequential anecdotes not always complimentary to targets but entertaining for reader; sounds like later Agatha Christie's.

I will undoubtedly read more about Emily, just to get swept away in her swirling woods. Tippett is readable, thorough, extensive, detailed. But keep in mind tabloid reporters' fact-checker mantra "observer claims". Biographer is no more credible than sources. She does not rate their accuracy. From context, some balance can be guessed. For example, Carr complains about 'cigarette stinks' and vomit 'sick' stench, but was herself a smoking addict and nauseated at sea p178. From photos p16, cover, more, Carr looks lovely - large eyes, luscious lips, elegant cheeckbones, trim chin, slim figure - yet considered herself dumpy, dowdy, even before weight gain and careless self-neglect of appearance. Depression and years before government subsidy were rough on everyone. Women suffered most, dependent on friends and relatives. Yet resourceful Carr survived - taught, sold pictures, writing, dogs, rented rooms - little generosity recorded, editor inherited more than sister.

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