BlogOctober 3, 2019

Harry Phelan Gibb's Impact on Emily Carr's Artistic Evolution

Harry William Phelan Gibb (1870-1948)
Evening, Barge on the Seine Coasting under the Pont Neuf, Paris, 1907

Oil on board 
12 x 15 1/2 in, 30.5 x 39.4 cm


Heffel Fine Art Auction House, Vancouver, Fine Canadian Art, 8 November 2001, lot 183; 

Acquired at the above by the present owner.


Harry Gibb’s exclusive contribution to the canon of art in Canada is not insignificant. Maria Tippett addresses his encouragement toward Emily Carr at some length in Emily Carr: A Biography[1] Reading Tippett, one uncovers in Gibb a teacher of Carr and someone who directed her to other art instruction she might not otherwise have had. Perhaps as importantly as anything she may have learned from him Tippett suggests that while with Gibb, Emily “discovered that a painting could be more than an accurate transcription of visual fact” [2]. Then Tippett adds that, subsequently, Carr repainted some Indian watercolour sketches she had brought from Canada and repainted them, “incorporating ‘the bigger methods’ Gibb had taught her” [3]. One might extrapolate that these “bigger methods” are the aggressive colour sense of fauve generation of Carr’s career. The Audain Art Museum (AAM), as of September 21, has opened an important exhibition, Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing - French Modernism and the West Coast, an exhibition co-curated by Kiriko Watanabe, the AAM’s Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator and Dr. Kathryn Bridge, a presentation which “.... feature over 50 paintings, watercolours, and drawings by Carr, along with a selection of works by Carr’s instructors whose work directly influenced her artistic development,”  including English painter Henry William Phelan Gibb.[4] 


With the benefit of their scholarship we are certain to learn more about Gibb and his impact on the course of Carr’s evolution. Our Gibb offered here is an optimum complement to a collection of Carr’s work and a most handsome impressionist painting in its own right.



[1]. Harry Gibb is referenced in Maria Tippett, Emily Carr: A Biography, (Toronto, House of Anansi Press, 2006), p. 85-92, p. 97-98, p. 102, p. 130, p. 134, p. 142, p. 152.

[2]. Ibid, p. 92.

[3]. Ibid.


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