Attibuted to JOHNNY INUKPUK, R.C.A (1911-2007), INUKJUAK (PORT HARRISON)
Standing Hunter with Spear and Knife, c. 1952-53
stone, antler and ivory, 10.5 x 6 x 7 in, 26.5 x 15 x 17.5 cm
Estimate: $15,000 — $25,000
Waddington's Auctions, Fall 1993, Lot 914;
Waddington's Auctions, Nov. 1999;
Acquired from the above by the Sam Wagonfeld Collection, Denver; Walker's Auctions, Nov. 2017, Lot 88;
a Toronto Collection.
Exhibited and Published
Loveland Museum Gallery, Survival: Inuit Art (Loveland, CO, 2004) p. 24.
Standing Hunter with Spear and Knife is one of the most striking and original depictions of a hunter that we have seen from this important early period of Inuit art. Fairly large, the figure has a commanding presence - it's difficult not to be mesmerized by the hunter's fierce gaze and bared teeth - but at the same time the oversize head gives the work an almost gnome-like appeal. There are some details as well that soften our initial impression of the work: for example the hunter's hair, moustache and beard, eyebrows, and crow's feet are incised with considerable delicacy.
It is these fine and very important details - combined with the face's overall exaggerated size, its division into four convex areas (bulging cheeks, broad forehead, and mouth and chin area), the almond-shaped and slightly slanted inset ivory eyes and matching mouth - that guide our attribution to Johnny Inukpuk as the author of this remarkable sculpture. We are suggesting a relatively early date for this work - a year or two before 1954, the date known for the most famous of Inukpuk's published works from the 1950s. These later works are carved in the marbled green stone that is typically associated with the community style. However, a perusal of Darlene Wight's Early Masters catalogue and other publications shows that several different stones were carved in prior years, including more obdurate stones such as the one used here by Inukpuk.
We feel it is time for this work to take its place among the early masterpieces of the legendary Johnny Inukpuk.
References: For classic masterpieces by Johnny Inukpuk in a very similar style see Darlene Coward Wight, Early Masters: Inuit Sculpture 1949-1955, pp. 82, 86; George Swinton (1972/92), fig. 307; Ingo Hessel, Inuit Art, fig. 49. For a fine early 1950s Mother and Child with similar facial features see Walker's Auctions, May 2016, Lot 94.