Skip to content

Fresh Seeings: How Emily Carr’s style changed after a trip to France

New exhibit at Royal BC Museum showcasing the Victoria-born artist’s work throughout her life

The new Emily Carr exhibit at the Royal BC Museum is highlighting the impact a trip to France had on the Victoria-born painter.

“I think if Carr hadn’t gone to France, she would not have become the national icon that she is now,” said Kathryn Bridge, co-curator of the new exhibit. “She transitions in France from a realistic painter to a post-impressionist painter – she completely changed her style.”

Carr travelled to Paris in 1910 and spent the year broadening her art, studying under artists like John Duncan Fergusson, ‘Harry’ Phelan Gibb and Frances Hodgkins.

READ ALSO: Newly public Emily Carr painting depicts well-known Victoria view

“She could very easily have been satisfied by being a competent realistic painter, working in watercolours, but I think she wanted something more,” said Bridge.

The exhibit was 14 months in the making, which is a fairly tight timeline when it comes to curating exhibits. In an effort to learn more about Carr, Bridge went to France to follow in the artist’s footsteps. Armed with an iPad filled with Carr’s paintings, most of which had generic titles such as Village by the Sea or House in Brittany, Bridge got to work trying to locate the exact spot in the paintings.

“There was a couple of times where I actually sat on the same bench that Carr sat on,” said Bridge. “Knowing that it was exactly there that she sat … I get shivers.”

READ ALSO: Victoria author pens biography on Emily Carr’s monkey, Woo

For Bridge, what’s most exciting about the exhibit, titled Fresh Seeing, is the fact that this is the first time a lot of new information about Carr’s time in France has been presented, and that this is the largest showing of her paintings together in one place, including a number of private lender pieces.

After Emily Carr's trip to France, her style of painting changed. So once she came back home, Carr re-painted a number of her pieces using what she learned abroad. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

The exhibit features a number of paintings done before Carr’s trip to France that she redid when she got home. Prior to her trip, Carr spent a lot of time painting local First Nations and gave herself a mission to document villages which she feared would be lost in the future.

“I think she was ahead of her time in not recognizing or not subscribing to a lot of racialized perspective,” said Bridge.

A book called Fresh Seeing accompanies the exhibit, which details more of Bridge’s trip to France and includes four essays about Carr and her work.

For more information about the exhibit which is open now and runs until Jan. 24, or to purchase tickets, visit the museum’s website.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Fresh Seeings, the new Emily Carr exhibit at the Royal BC Museum, is the largest collection of Carr’s work all together at one time. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Fresh Seeings, the new Emily Carr exhibit at the Royal BC Museum, is the largest collection of Carr’s work all together at one time. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)