Autumn in France 1911

Autumn in France 1911

Emily Carr, Autumn in France, 1911

Oil on paperboard, 49 x 65.9 cm

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Art Canada Institute, Emily Carr, French Knitter (La Bretonne), 1911
Emily Carr, French Knitter (La Bretonne), 1911, oil on canvas, 55.2 x 45.7 cm, private collection.

Painted in Brittany, Autumn in France is a confident, dramatic depiction of the French landscape, reflecting a remarkable leap forward in Carr’s accomplishment. No longer worrying over fine details, she uses bold brush strokes, which reflect the influence of Post-Impressionism, to suggest an overall movement. She creates a cohesive structure while at the same time capturing the rhythms and major transitions within the broad expanse of the French landscape. “I tramped the country-side, sketch sack on shoulder,” she writes of her time in France. “The fields were lovely, lying like a spread of gay patchwork against red-gold wheat, cool, pale oats, red-purple of new-turned soil, green, green grass, and orderly, well trimmed trees.  Carr’s explorations in the countryside led her to understand how she should depict the unity, vibrancy, and structure of the landscape and be less concerned with naturalistic rendering. Under the tutelage of Harry Phelan Gibb (1870–1948), a British expatriate living in Paris, she became more confident: “Those others don’t know what they are after,” he said, but “you do. 

 

While outside Paris, Carr worked en plein air, in the fields or woods and sometimes in the homes of cottagers, from morning until dark, creating images of rural life in Brittany, such as French Knitter (La Bretonne), 1911. Although Gibb advised her to rest, he admired her tenacity. When she destroyed works that she felt were not adequate, he told her, “That’s why I like teaching you! You’ll risk ruining your best in order to find something better.” And when she complained about the artistic isolation awaiting her back in Canada, he replied, “So much the better! Your silent Indian will teach you more than all the art jargon.

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