NIVIAQSI (NIVIAKSIAK) (1908-1959) m., KINNGAIT (CAPE DORSET)
Standing Hunter, c. 1955
stone, 15 x 7.5 x 9.25 in (38.1 x 19.1 x 23.5 cm)
Estimate: $12,000 — $18,000
Galerie Elca London, Montreal;
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Toronto.
Niviaqsi (also commonly known as Niviaksiak) began carving in 1951, shortly after the first visit of James Houston to Cape Dorset, and was firmly established as an important sculptor and graphic artist by 1959, the year of his untimely and mysterious death (the inaugural annual print collection of 1959 offered nine prints by the artist). As a carver Niviaqsi excelled at producing both small and larger masterpieces. A highly refined small Mother and Child c. 1955 demonstrates both Niviaqsi's technical skill, his penchant for naturalistic detail, and his keen interest in having the subject engage with the viewer . Similarly, a larger and transcendently beautiful Mother and Child, c. 1955-58 reveals his consummate workmanship, an extraordinary mastery of form and volume, and his obvious respect for his human subjects .
Larger still, Standing Hunter develops these interests and talents in a slightly new direction. We are immediately struck by this hunter's obvious engagement with us; we feel as if we are being drawn into in an animated conversation with the man. The hunter's subtle but nonetheless forceful body language, and especially his hand gesture suggest that he is trying to plead a case or explain something to us. His mouth is not merely open; he seems literally caught mid-sentence. Almost as remarkable is the painstakingly detailed and unusual delineation of the vertical folds in the hunter's parka. These creases are caused by the man's tightly cinched belt. It's an unusual treatment, one that we don't recall seeing before, and it's as distinctive a feature of this sculpture as the man's facial features. We are left with the feeling that we are having a very specific conversation with a very specific person. Remarkable.
1. See Walker's Auctions, Ottawa, November 2015, Lot 83.
2. See Walker's Auctions, Ottawa, May 2017, Lot 26.
References: For other examples of Niviaqsi's sculpture see CEAC, Sculpture/Inuit (Toronto: U of T Press, 1971), figs. 252, 342; Darlene Coward Wight, The Jerry Twomey Collection (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2003) p. 52; George Swinton, Sculpture of the Inuit (Toronto: M&S, 1972/92), figs. 427, 430.