The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has acquired two Emily Carr paintings from brothers whose grandmother purchased one from Carr herself, after the two bonded over a shared love of dogs.
The donation comes from Ian and Andrew Burchett, whose parents, Peter and Damaris Burchett, were long-time supporters of the gallery.
The donated collection — which also contains two sketches from Group of Seven member Lawren S. Harris — includes an untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point purchased directly from Carr by Peter Burchett’s mother, Bets Burchett.
Ian Burchett, who now lives in Ottawa, said his grandmother loved to tell him and his brother about how Carr invited her over for a series of visits spanning several weeks to look at her paintings and choose her favourite.
“My grandmother always said to us that she knew right away which painting that she wanted, but she agreed to keep going back and to Emily’s home to chat with her, and then finally she bought the painting that hung over our family fireplace,” he said.
Bets Burchett gave the piece to her son and daughter-in-law as a wedding gift, and the painting hung above the fireplace in the North Saanich home they built and where they raised their sons.
Their parents had always said they hoped the art would be passed on to the gallery for others to enjoy, Ian Burchett said. After his mother died in 2019, following his father’s death a few years earlier, the brothers decided to fulfil their parents’ wish.
The other donated Carr piece, Angidah Naas River, evokes happy memories for the brothers. In 1971, their parents took them on a camping trip around B.C. to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the province joining Confederation. They went to northern B.C., to an area depicted in the painting of totem poles.
“We were able to actually find what we thought were the poles,” Burchett said. “Later on, when we looked at that painting, we always remembered that wonderful family camping trip.”
Burchett said he and his brother were happy to continue their parents’ relationship with the gallery, and it’s special to see the works he grew up with hanging there. On a recent visit to Victoria, the gallery was one of the first stops he made, to see the paintings on display.
The donated works also include several Chinese jade pieces, two concrete panels by Herbert Siebner and family portraits that date to the mid-1600s.
Gallery director Jon Tupper said it’s the first time the gallery has received a donation of Carr’s work during the 12 years he has been there. The last time the gallery purchased a piece to add to its Carr collection, which has about 45 works, was about a decade ago, when prices were much lower than they are now, Tupper said.
Paintings by Carr sell for $150,000 to $275,000, depending on their condition, subject and when they were painted, he said.
“I’m so excited about this — whenever you see major works of art come into the collection, especially ones that are really beyond our means.”