JOHNNY INUKPUK, R.C.A. (1911-2007), INUKJUAK (PORT HARRISON)
Mother and Child, Carrying a Pail, early 1960s
stone, 25.25 x 18.5 x 8.5 in (64.1 x 47 x 21.6 cm)
possibly signed with artist's disc number, signature obscured by affixed HBC label.
ESTIMATE: $30,000 — $45,000
PRICE REALIZED: $78,000
The Hudson's Bay Company Collection, Toronto;
Acquired from the above by the previous Private Collector, Toronto, July 23, 1990;
by descent to the present Private Collector, Toronto.
Johnny Inukpuk began carving no later than 1951, and quickly became one of Inukjuak's preeminent sculptors, encouraged and much promoted by James Houston. Darlene Wight's catalogue Early Masters: Inuit Sculpture 1949-1955 (WAG 2006) pp. 83-87, illustrates several early works and discusses Inukpuk's early life and artistic career.
By the late 1950s Inukpuk's style had evolved from the compact, rotund pieces that typify his early period to more vertically oriented, often quite large works. Several of these impressive sculptures, dating from 1960-1965, are in the TD Bank Collection; the most famous of these are Mother Feeding Child from 1962 and Man Wringing Sealskin Line, c. 1965 (see references).
The monumental Mother and Child, Carrying a Pail (almost surely a portrait of Inukpuk's wife Mary and one of their children) ranks with the above-mentioned works as one of Johnny Inukpuk's masterpieces of the period. As with Mother Feeding Child this standing woman is truly imposing; she is portrayed with such strength and determination that she looks almost like a goddess figure, a force of nature even. Her voluptuous but powerful body seems barely contained by her amautiq; one enormous hand grips the stone pot while the other restrains her no doubt squirming son. But as is typical of Inukpuk's important works of the period, careful attention has also been paid to the woman's broad but delicate facial features, her hair, pigtails, and ears, as well as various distinctive details of the figures' clothing. In purely sculptural terms the work is a true tour-de-force; Johnny Inukpuk has brilliantly applied his full arsenal of skills, intelligence, and sensitivity. And with his usual aplomb, the artist has managed to elicit a range of emotions in the viewer; we might find this work intimidating if we weren't also attracted by its charm and the obvious love with which it was conceived. Fantastic.
References: A quite similar and equally monumental Mother and Child by Johnny Inukpuk, from 1961, is displayed at the Lorne Balshine Collection at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR); for an illustration see Arctic Art Museum Ltd., Arctic Art Masterworks (Vancouver, 1998), unpag. Other contemporaneous masterpieces by the artist include Mother Feeding Child from 1962 in the TD Bank Collection, illustrated in George Swinton, Sculpture of the Inuit, 1972/92, fig. 55 and elsewhere; Man Wringing Sealskin Line from 1964, also in the TD Bank Collection, in Swinton (1972/92), fig. 292. For impressive mothers and children from the mid 1960s see Walker's Auctions, May 2015, Lot 34, and May 2016, Lot 35.