Winner of The Hubert Evans Non-fiction Award (BC)

The 2001 Governor General’s Literary Award in Non-fiction
The Drainie- Taylor Award for Biography
The City of Toronto Book Award
The Torgi Award (CNIB Talking Book).

Much has been written about Emily Carr, seminal Canadian artist; eccentric and cantankerous woman; and “appropriator” of native culture, but few have explored how and why Carr has become a national touchstone, an icon who has helped us define who we are as Canadians. Writer, art historian and cultural critic Susan Crean does just that in the Emily Carr biography The Laughing One, a fresh and unique investigation of Emily Carr and her influence. Crean uses a multi-layered structure that combines historical research, including never-before-published material; fictionalized accounts of key events in Carr’s life; and the author’s own forays into Carr territory, reflecting on the startling connections between Carr’s nineteenth-century sensibility and our present concerns with the environment; assimilation and destruction of native culture; spirituality; and identity.

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Crean probes our fascination with Carr: Why was it that a 1913 showing of Carr’s work went virtually ignored, while in 1927 — with a minimal change in style — her work was the star of a National Gallery exhibition, eclipsing even the Group of Seven? What was the meaning of the traumatic break with her father and her rejection of marriage? Why and how did a fledgling Canadian identity embrace her vibrant, often forbidding, landscapes?

Much more than a biography, The Laughing One will be an important new contribution to the world of Canadian art and cultural history and a thoroughly entertaining and insightful read

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"Susan Crean’s book on Carr is several things at once, none of them drab: a fictionalized biography, a history textbook, a travelogue, a feminist tract, an ecological treatise, a plea for Aboriginal rights, and a reporter’s notebook."

"Elegantly written, thoughtful, and challenging, The Laughing One sheds new light on Carr’s career. More importantly, though, Crean takes the reader on a journey through a nation’s relationship not only with Carr and her work, but with the First Nations and the land itself."

Quill & Quire


"Book Review: The Laughing One" — Quill & Quire
"Book Review: Drab Little Nothings" — Michelle Ariss, Canadian Literature 190 (pg 83)
"Creative Carr" — Deirdre Hanna, Now Toronto


In the early 1990s I moved to British Columbia and brought with me an obscure painting by Carr of a tree overhanging a canal, painted in France in 1911. It was by fluke that I came to have the painting; I was in fact, only minding it, and it has long since returned to its owner. Living with it, looking at it daily, I came to see it not just as a fragment of Carr’s artistic life, but as an artefact with its own story. Europe could teach Carr about painting, but her inspiration was rooted in the landscape of B.C. (not France or anywhere else), and by the art of the First Nations in communities she visited at Alert Bay, Haida Gwaii and up the Skeena and Nass Rivers. I decided to follow her trail up the coast, and in the course of the journey, to investigate Carr’s cultural legacy in terms of history and the relations between Aboriginal communities and the White newcomers, the guests who came and never left. It was a self-directed course on the true history of Canada, and I am forever indebted to two First Nation women artists who showed me the way: Shirley Bear, and the late Freda Diesing.





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Author: Susan Crean
Pages: 495
Subjects: Non-fiction, Canadian Biography, Canadian Historical Biography,  Emily Carr, Artist Biographies, Painters -- Canada Biography, Arts and entertainment, Biography, Fine arts biography, Women biography

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada

Publication Year: 2001

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