Unvarnished: Autobiographical Sketches of Emily Carr

Emily Carr, Kathryn Bridge


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In vibrant prose and revealing detail,
Emily Carr records delightful and insightful moments and encounters from her own life history.

Culled from the hand-written pages in old-fashioned scribblers and almost-forgotten typescripts amid drafts for her published stories, Unvarnished features among the last unpublished and highly personal writings of the iconic Canadian author and artist Emily Carr.

This highly readable manuscript—edited by Royal BC Museum curator emerita Kathryn Bridge and illustrated with sketches and photographs from the BC Archives – spans nearly four decades, from 1899 to 1939. In an almost stream-of-consciousness outpouring of stories, Carr chronicles her early years as an art student in England, her life-altering sojourn in France and subsequent travels to Indigenous villages along the coast, her encounters with the Group of Seven, conversations with artist Lawren Harris, and her sketching trips in the “Elephant” caravan in the company of a quirky menagerie. Also included are stories written in hospital recovering from a stroke, a particularly vulnerable time in her life.

Emily Carr’s books have remained in nearly continuous print since the 1940s.

Unvarnished is a fresh addition to her enduring oeuvre, to be enjoyed as a complement to her other writings or as a jewel in its own right.

The Royal Museum Shop is operated by the Royal BC Museum Foundation. All proceeds from the sale of merchandise go directly towards supporting the many fine programs and special events at the Royal BC Museum.

December 31, 2021, PB, 144 pages

ISBN 9780772679642

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Emily Carr (1871 – 1945) is recognized as one of Canada’s foremost artists and authors. Art studies led her to San Francisco, England and France, but she was claustrophobic in big cities and longed for the wilds of her west coast home, Victoria. On major sketching trips in 1912 and 1928 to isolated coastal villages Emily bravely battled privation, mosquitoes and rain, determined to produce a body of work that would direct and sustain her creative needs for years. Carr was unconventional, unapologetic, and memorable. She smoked, rode astride a horse, lived with pet rats, parrots, cats, dogs, and a monkey. Stories of her eccentric lifestyle live on, but her powerful artistic and literary interpretations of the coastal landscapes of her home, British Columbia, remain her lasting legacy.

The Royal BC Museum’s Emily Carr collection includes over 100 impressive paintings and a treasure trove of 1000 sketches and handicrafts—diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, letters and manuscripts—making up the world’s largest collection of Emily Carr materials, one which spans her entire career. Included as well are a wealth of contextual pieces: photographs, research files and sound recordings of interviews and reminiscences. The Royal BC Museum is the proud steward of this exceptional collection, which offers a uniquely holistic view of Carr’s life and work.

Kathryn Bridge’s life in the worlds of archives and museums has her wearing the hats of archivist, historian and curator, balancing the academic focus of publications with public presentations and exhibitions. She worked at the BC Archives and Royal BC Museum in different and increasingly more senior positions over her career, retiring in 2017.
As a curator emerita, Kathryn continues to centre her projects within the historical collections. She has written several books about Emily Carr and other historical women artists in British Columbia, and on mountaineer Phyllis Munday. In 2012 she earned her PhD, writing about children and childhood in settler society in western Canada. In 2019 she was co-curator


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