The Elephant

Emily Carr’s Caravan

In Emily’s words: “The roof seems low and heavy and the walls squeezing us. Yet the house is enormous after the van. But the van was so much nearer the big outside, just a canvas and a rib or two and then the world. And the earth was more yours than this little taxed scrap which is under your name.”

As a youngster, Emily dreamed of caravans like she read about in children’s stories. Her fantasies were horse drawn, never motorized. One day, her dream caravan materialized sitting by the roadside, heavy and grey like an elephant, with a For Sale sign. As it had no wheels, it had to be towed around to the various locations for Emily’s sketching outings.

Made of metal sheathing and partially covered with canvas, it measured only 6 1/2’ x 8’ and was about 7’ tall at its highest point. Her bed fit across one end and she had a shelf table along one side. On the other wall was a bench with boxes for her monkey, Woo, and four Griffon dogs. She fashioned a pulpit on part of the shelf by her bed where she wrote in the evenings. Her canvases and art equipment were stored under the bed and a coal oil lamp provided light.

Emily cooked outside on a make shift camp fire. The food was safety stored indoors. Sometimes she slept outside under the stars.

The roof of the Elephant was also metal sheathing and covered with canvas. It is folded back for the display so you can see how she lived with her monkey and four Griffon dogs. 

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