PAUTA SAILA, R.C.A. (1916-2009) m., KINNGAIT (CAPE DORSET)
Standing Polar Bear, early 1970s
stone and ivory, 12 x 8.75 x 9 in (30.5 x 22.2 x 22.9 cm)
signed "ᐸᐅᑕ / PAOUTA".
Estimate: $20,000— $30,000
Waddington's Auctions, June 1981, Lot 424;
The Upstairs Gallery, Winnipeg;
Acquired from the above the present Private Collection, USA, 2003.
Pauta Saila is justly famous for his "dancing bears" but some of his greatest depictions of the animals are posed more straightforwardly. Standing Bear is one of Pauta's most powerful and imposing versions from the 1970s. What is most striking about this sculpture is its palpable sense of pent-up energy. It's as if this bear has compressed itself and is now ready to expand - with a might roar - back to its full size. Pauta explains why that would make this particular bear so potentially lethal:
I carve bears with longer or shorter necks, and some that are fat or lean. They are in different positions because bears are always doing something. Sudden moves are possible with shorter necks .
But Pauta's bears combine ferocity with beauty. Standing Polar Bear is carved in an especially lovely piece of Markham Bay stone and finished to a soft matte sheen; it reminds us of a particularly impressive Pauta bear from 1967, carved in the same stone, in the Sarick Collection at the AGO (see reference). The very compact quality that gives this bear its power also translates into sensuous, muscular sculptural form. Outstanding.
1. Pauta Saila interviewed by George Swinton in Bernadette Driscoll, Uumajut (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1985), p. 46.
References: For important examples of bears by Pauta that are similarly posed and/or contemporaneous and/or carved in similar stone see Gerald McMaster ed., Inuit Modern (2010), p. 116 (Sarick, AGO from 1967), and p. 117 (also Sarick from 1973); Bernadette Driscoll, Uumajut: Animal Imagery in Inuit Art (WAG, 1985) cat. 1. See also Walker's Auctions, Nov. 2016, Lot 91; Nov. 2015, Lot 203; Nov. 2012, Lot 77. See First Arts, May 2019, Lot 11. See also Waddington's Auctions Nov. 2018, Lot 64; Nov. 2015, Lot 126; June 2015, Lot 133; Nov. 2010, Lot 295.