Emily Carr was born December 13th, 1871, in Victoria, British Columbia. She was a writer and a painter who has had her paintings sell for over three million dollars. Carr painted rainforests, villages, and artifacts of First Nations. Some of her paintings include Big Raven, Cedar, and The Indian Church. (A quick Google search shows many of her alluring paintings.) But she wasn’t always so successful.
She studied art in San Francisco, London, and Paris, painting in the modernist art style which was still new at the time. When she moved back to British Columbia in 1911, she opened an art studio in Victoria. However, many people in Canada didn’t appreciate her new modernist style, and her art studio failed, shutting down in 1913.
After the closure, Carr stopped painting for fifteen long years. During that time she ran a boarding house. But one day in 1927, a member of the Group of Seven noticed Carr’s work as he toured an art exhibition on the West Coast of Canada. The Group of Seven, formed in 1920, was an organization of modern artists who mainly painted the landscape near Algonquin, Ontario. They were some of the most important artists of their time, with members Franklin Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, F.H. Varley and Lawren Harris. It was Harris who saw Carr’s work, contacting her and encouraging her to start painting again. She was embraced by the Group of Seven; and although she was not an official member of the group, even to this day her art is linked with theirs. Finally, Carr’s work received the recognition that it deserved.
Emily Carr died of a heart attack on March 2, 1945. But she leaves behind a legacy that goes even beyond her art, a lesson in how to keep going. She quit following her passion for fifteen years. Only when someone recognized her skill and talent did she start again. This reminds me a lot of my life. I stop doing what I love because I feel like no one will like it—that I’m not good enough. As much as I love reading stories of people who never gave up, I think it’s more encouraging to read stories of people who gave up for a time, because that is how life goes for most of us. We give up, and we need to be reminded that this is okay: you can go back to it.