OSUITOK IPEELEE, R.C.A. (1923-2005) m., KINNGAIT (CAPE DORSET)
Kneeling Woman Scraping a Skin, c. 1970
stone, 14.5 x 13 x 14.5 in (36.8 x 33 x 36.8 cm)
signed, "ᐅᓱᐃᑐ ᐄᐱᓕ";
signed again, "OSAHEWTOOK / IPELEE;
and inscribed ""ᑭᒐᐃ" (Kinngait).
Estimate: $25,000— $35,000
The Upstairs Gallery, Winnipeg;
Waddington's Auctions, Nov. 2004, Lot 349;
Acquired from the above by the present Private Collection, USA.
Osuitok was born at Neeouleeutalik camp on southern Baffin Island, and lived a traditional hunting life for decades. His father was killed by a shaman when Osuitok was only twelve, and as one of the older sons much responsibility fell upon him to help support the family. This may in no small way have contributed to Osuitok's work ethic and his devotion to high-level craftsmanship in his art. Having carved wooden toys by the age of thirteen, Osuitok began making and selling ivory carvings in the 1940s while in his twenties, and encouraged by James Houston, started to carve stone in the early 1950s. By the early 1960s he was recognized as Cape Dorset's preeminent and most influential sculptor, establishing a reputation for beautiful depictions of birds and other animals as well as human subjects, primarily women. Osuitok's work is included in virtually every major public, private and corporate collection of Inuit art.
It is well known that Osuitok was a frank admirer of the female form, and that depictions of women fishing or engaged in daily chores were by far his favourite human subjects, extending as far back as the 1950s. In this wonderfully serene work the careful attention that Osuitok pays to the woman's clothing trim reminds us of his famous standing Fisherwoman of 1963 in the TD Bank Collection. Kneeling Woman Scraping a Skin is not actively engaged in her work as is the later Fisherwoman of c. 1978-80 (First Arts, May 2019, Lot 28) and other examples, but she is every bit as beautiful. There is a lovely tranquillity to this portrait; the woman's placid face has a dreamy quality, and her eyes appear to be closed in reverie. We would be remiss if we did not mention the woman's gorgeous traditional hairstyle; it is one of the most beautiful depictions we have seen, and lends the young woman an air of regal elegance.
References: For other lovely portrayals of women by Osuitok see First Arts, May 2019, Lot 28; Toronto-Dominion Bank, The Eskimo Art Collection of the Toronto-Dominion Bank (Toronto: 1972), cat. 73, also illus. in Jean Blodgett, "Osuitok Ipeelee" in Alma Houston, ed., Inuit Art: An Anthology (Watson & Dwyer, 1988), p. 45-46. See also Walker's Auctions, May 2012, Lot 17; Nov. 2012, Lot 60; May 2013, Lot 22; May 2016, Lot 48; and Nov. 2017, Lot 143. For a slightly later example of the same theme see Waddington's Auctions, Nov. 2011, Lot 224.