Magazine article Arts & Activities

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Magazine article Arts & Activities

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Nearly 100 years ago, when Emily Carr first visited North American Indian villages along the coast of British Columbia, many of them were still occupied. During an early visit, the people in one of the villages gave her the name of "Klee Wyck" (Laughing One), which became the title of the first of her five books. European diseases continued to kill the North American Indians, however, and almost all of their villages were eventually abandoned, and survivors moved to the towns and villages of the white settlers.

Emily Carr's 'Vanquished" reflects the collapse of this North American Indian civilization, with its totem poles and traditional houses, while at the same time telling the viewer about the warm rainy climate and the lush plant life that grew along the northwest coast of Canada. In this picture, Nature is rapidly recapturing the land that had formerly been a village. All that remains are scattered posts, leaning in all directions, that may have been parts of houses or may have been totem poles. Close by in the foreground lies a jumble of roots, trees and branches that have drifted in from the sea and now clog the beach.

The tragedy of the abandoned village is an important part of the message in this painting. Perhaps more powerful is Carr's understanding and portrayal of the power of Nature. The landscape and wet climate dominate everything from the massiveness of the nearby hills and mountains to the never-ending, heavily loaded rain clouds that constantly blow across the area. The warm rain makes everything green and encourages the rapid growth of trees and smaller plants. At the same time, everything that has died rots and vanishes quickly under a covering of young, fastgrowing plants--which are overtaking this abandoned village where everything was made of wood.

Students may be interested to learn that the inspiration for this painting appears in a combination of sketches, watercolor paintings and photographs taken during one of Cart's trips many years earlier. …

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