Dear Nan: Letters of Emily Carr, Nan Cheney and Humphrey Toms
Edited by Doreen Walker
8vo. pp. xlvi, 437. 2 double-sided colour plates & b/w illustrations. index. bds. dw. Vancouver: University of Vancouver Press, 1990.
ISBN-10: 0774803487 / ISBN-13: 9780774803489
This collection includes 150 letters Emily Carr wrote to her friends Nan Cheney and Humphrey Toms, and 100 other letters relating mainly to Emily Carr. The letters date from 1930 to 1945, the most prolific period in Carr’s career as both painter and writer. In them she writes in colourful detail about her everyday activities, and discusses her painting – “the biggest thing in my life.” There are outbursts of exasperation and anger as well as many indications of her caring, her warmth, her wisdom and her wit, and of her impatience with critics and poseurs, and they give insights into her various relationships with, among others, Lawren Harris, Ira Dilworth, Jack Shadbolt, Garnett Sedgewick, Dorothy Livesay, A.Y. Jackson, and Arthur Lismer.
Nan Cheney and Humphrey Toms shared Emily Carr’s interest in art. Carr’s relationship with Cheney dated back to 1930 but did not flourish until 1937 when Cheney moved from Ottawa to Vancouver to become the first full-time medical artist at UBC. Humphrey Toms was only twenty years old when he first met Emily Carr, having asked to visit her after seeing some of her paintings, following which a warm friendship developed.
The correspondence between Cheney and Toms reveals how Carr was regarded at the time and attests to their mutual interest in the Vancouver art scene. As an active member Cheney relates gossip about the local art community, providing a very personal and often exceedingly critical view of the Vancouver art milieu of the time.