The Forest Lover

Vreeland, Susan

Published by Viking, 2004
ISBN 10: 0670032670 / ISBN 13: 9780670032679
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Synopsis: It was Emily Carr (1871–1945)—like Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo—who first blazed a path for modern women artists. Overcoming the confines of late Victorian culture, Carr became a major force in modern art. Her boldly original landscapes are praised today for capturing an untamed British Columbia—and its indigenous peoples— just before industrialization would change it forever. In her latest novel, Susan Vreeland brings to life this fiercely independent and underappreciated figure. From illegal potlatches in tribal communities to prewar Paris, where her art was exhibited in the famed Salon d’Automne, Carr’s story is as arresting as it is vibrant. Vreeland tells it with gusto and suspense, giving vivid portraits of Carr and the unconventional people to whom she was inevitably drawn: Sophie, a native basket maker; Harold, the son of missionaries, who embraces indigenous cultures; Fanny, a New Zealand artist who spends a summer with Carr painting in the French countryside; and Claude, a French fur trader who steals her heart. The result is a glorious novel that will appeal to lovers of art, native cultures, and lush historical fiction.

Review: Novelist Susan Vreeland has made a career of fictionalizing the lives of artists and of particular paintings, like Artemisia Gentileschi¹s magnificent Judith in The Passion of Artemisia. In her third novel, The Forest Lover, Vreeland's subject is the courageous Canadian painter Emily Carr, who traveled through native villages and wilderness of British Columbia in the early 1900s, often alone, on a quest to paint totem poles and other artifacts before the indigenous traditions died out and the poles were destroyed or sold. Vreeland's Carr is deeply respectful of the people she meets, and is rewarded with their trust and their stories. She brings the same sensitivity with her to Paris to see the new art, is exhibited at the Salon d'Automne, and returns to Vancouver in 1912 with a style so direct, and colors so expressive, that a conservative local reviewer dubs her a wild beast, literally, a Fauve. Vreeland's strength is in the tacks of emotion during dialogue, and in her nimble, exact prose. As she depicts her, Carr is an endearing and believable balance of sensitivity and determination‹an artist of life as well as a remarkable painter. --Regina Marler

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Forest Lover
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: 2004
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: 1st edition.

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