EMILY CARR BCSFA RCA 1871 - 1945 Haida Totem Pole oil on board signed, 1912 38 x 12.5 in 96.5 x 31.7 cm Galerie Dominion (original Ste. Catherine Street location), Montreal Collection of Harry & Esther Handel, Montreal By descent to the present Private Collection, Montreal One of a series of similar images, likely executed on the spot during her visit to the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) in 1912, this painting clearly shows two contradictory impulses at play in Carr's work. The goal of her trip to France in 1910 - 11 had been to acquire the necessary painterly tools to allow her to document the great totemic art of the West Coast, which she and many others believed was in danger of disappearing. Her training in France with Fergusson and Gibb introduced Carr to post-impressionist style and a less naturalistic approach to the use of colour. Upon her return to Canada she set out in the summer of 1912 to begin this great documentary project, but could not ever completely suppress her instincts as an artist. Therefore the resulting image is an attempt to reconcile her new sense of colour and use of paint with the project of providing documentation of totemic figures. We see a memorial totem beside a conventional headstone, surrounded by a small fence. The clashing of two cultures is succinctly expressed in this simple image. It is, however, not hard to see where Carr's sympathies lie; the pole is rightly the focus of her attention and is striking in the use of reds, blues and browns. Particularly noteworthy are the red bodies of the thunderbird and human figures; the contrast with their respective blue faces is quite startling. The image is also interesting for Carr's inclusion of a larger landscape, a building behind the pole and the large area of sky. It is a distinctive and strong image that remains vibrant more than ninety years after it was painted.