Wednesday, 19 September 2012

In the Footsteps of Emily Carr-A Victoria Cycle Tour Of The Artist's Notable Places

Emily Carr, one of Canada's most famous and beloved artists, spent much of her life in and around the city of Victoria, with many of these buildings and places still in existence today. Here is a cycle tour of some significant places in her life as well as some additional stops for the Emily Carr art fan, all well within easy cycling distance of each other.
Emily Carr
Emily Carr has always been one of my favourite artists. In my opinion, no one has been able to capture the lushness and beauty of a west coast forest quite like she did. My first stop was to check out the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, which has many Carr originals in its permanent collection. The Art Gallery is located at 1040 Moss St. so from downtown Victoria, just ride up Fort St. until you hit Moss Street, and then turn right.

As luck would have it, right now the gallery has an ongoing exhibition called Emily Carr: On The Edge Of Nowhere, which features works from its permanent collection as well as some borrowed items from other museums and private collections. This is well worth checking out if you are a fan of Emily Carr, as well as if you want to just learn more about her and her life. There are many of her early works showcased, as well as later ones, so it's interesting to see the progression of her work from the different stages of her life to her own distinct style she achieved later in life. Some of her most famous works were painted in her 60's, which always gives me much inspiration that you are never too old to achieve great things.

Here are some of Emily Carr's works at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
A Skidgate Beaver Pole

Above the Gravel Pit
(This gravel pit is still in existence on the way out to Metchosin. I love how she can find beauty in what many people see as an eyesore)
Light Swooping Through 
Blue Sky 

Shore and Forest (Cordova Bay)

After the Art Gallery, keep cycling on Moss Street and then turn right on Rockland Avenue. Continue on Rockland, passing over Cook Street and then turn left on Vancouver Street. Turn right on Southgate Street and cycle until you come to Government Street. Turn left on Government Street and then stop once you come to what is now the James Bay Inn, located at 270 Government Street. 

James Bay Inn (formerly St. Mary's Priory, where Emily Carr Died)
While the James Bay Inn is now a hotel, it was formerly St. Mary's Priory from 1942-1945, where Emily Carr had been a patient in her final sickness. She died here on March 2, 1945 at the age of 73. 

However, just a block away is Emily Carr's birthplace and childhood home. Located at 207 Government Street, Emily Carr House is now run as a museum and historic building, offering visitors a glimpse into what life for the Carr family might have been like. Emily Carr was born on December 13, 1871 and lived at this house for much of her childhood. 
Emily Carr House
Parlour Room 

Dining Room at Emily Carr House
After losing both of her parents by the time she was sixteen years old, Emily and her siblings divided up much of their family land into lots, keeping five for each of them and selling off the rest.  Around the corner from Emily Carr House, at 218 St. Andrews Street is the house that belonged to Emily's sister Alice. 
Former House of Alice Carr
Alice had run a kindergarten school out of this house and Emily even taught some art classes there, from time to time.  There is also another sisters house across the street, at 231 St. Andrews Street, which belonged to Edith Carr. 

Around the corner from these houses, at 646 Simcoe Street is Emily Carr's own house she built and lived in, the "House of All Sorts", immortalized in her book of the same name. 
The House of All Sorts
Emily had four flats in the house, renting out three of them for income, and living in one with her animals. This house still has a mural that Emily painted on the attic roof in the style of First Nations. 

Continue riding up Simcoe Street to Beacon Hill Park. This park was basically Emily's backyard and you can picture her throughout her life walking and enjoying the natural and scenic beauty of the area. The park is filled with aged trees, many that would have been there in Emily's time. Take a look through the park that she loved, and maybe even stop to enjoy a picnic along the way, taking it all in. 

Trees and Lush Forests Were a Favourite Subject of Emily Carr's Painting

Old Trees Abound in Beacon Hill Park
Now head back to downtown, turning onto Government Street again towards the city's newest Emily Carr homage. In front of the Empress Hotel grounds, at the corner of Government and Belleville Street, is a bronze statue depicting Emily Carr with her sketchpad . Her Javanese monkey "Woo" is perched on her shoulder and her dog "Billie" is at her feet.  Erected in 2010, this statue will remind visitors and locals alike of the legacy that this great artist has had. 

Almost seventy years after her death, Emily Carr is still studied and admired. A painter, writer, nature lover and visionary, she was a real artist in every sense of the word, and a true original. 

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