They liked her – "they" being the Brits, "her" the legendary Canadian painter Emily Carr.
This week, South London's Dulwich Picture Gallery is reporting that its just-completed Carr retrospective, titled From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia, drew close to 35,000 visitors during a run of almost 19 weeks.
That's the sixth-highest attendance for a single exhibition at the Dulwich, inaugurated in 1817 as Britain's first-ever purpose-built public gallery.
Carr, who died at 73 in 1945, was not a rookie to the British art world – there had been exhibitions of her work at venues such as the Tate and the Commonwealth Institute; she herself lived in Britain, unhappily for the most part, from 1899 to 1905.
But Dulwich (pronounced Dull-itch) represented at once the most concentrated and sustained showcase of her art to be held in Europe. While Canadians have a long familiarity with Carr, they get the opportunity to freshen their perspective and appreciation next month when the Art Gallery of Ontario hosts an almost 12-week iteration of From the Forest to the Sea in Toronto.
Co-curated by Dulwich director Ian Dejardin and former Globe and Mail art critic Sarah Milroy, the show's 100-plus works, complemented by several First Nations artifacts, is coming to these shores buoyed by near unanimously positive press notices.
Laura Cumming of The Observer called it "revelatory" and "riveting" and named a 1937 Carr canvas, Windswept Trees, one of the 10 most memorable pieces of art she had seen in 2014. Richard Dorment's critique in the Daily Telegraph was headlined "The best artist nobody knows."
Dulwich, or at least the Dulwich headed by Dejardin since 2005, is no stranger to the charms and pleasures of historical Canadian art.
In 2011, supported by Canadian Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery and significant loans from the AGO and the National Gallery in Ottawa, he curated a well-received 12-week survey of works by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.
Called Painting Canada, it fulfilled a promise Dejardin made to himself in 1986 to do such a show in Britain after first encountering the Group in a book while working at London's Royal Academy of Arts.
Painting Canada, featuring some 125 paintings and sketches, went on to attract more than 41,000 visitors, at the time the second most successful single show in Dulwich history. Later, a version of the exhibition was presented at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont.
Another Canadian-themed exhibition likely will surface at the Dulwich in fall, 2018. No subject or artist has been announced, although in an interview last year Dejardin expressed interest in the paintings of J.W. Morrice (1865-1924) and other Canadian Post-Impressionists and Impressionists.
From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia runs from April 11 to July 12 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.