HENRY EVALUARDJUK (1923-2007), IQALUIT (FROBISHER BAY)
Dancing Bear, mid 1970s
stone, 9.75 x 4.5 x 2.5 in (24.8 x 11.4 x 6.3 cm)
signed, "HENRY / ᐃᕙᓗ ᐊᔪ".
Estimate: $3,500— $5,000
Private Collection, Ottawa.
Henry Evaluardjuk was born in the Igloolik area and lived a mostly traditional existence there and in the northern Baffin region until 1959, when he was treated for TB at the Hamilton Sanatorium before settling in Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit). Evaluardjuk began carving perhaps as early as the 1940s – first in ivory then mostly in stone. Evaluardjuk was a highly sensitive man: a singer, writer, and painter as well as a brilliant sculptor. Sadly, he suffered from bouts of depression and a tragic alcohol addiction, and led a tempestuous and sometimes violent life that resulted in several bouts of prison time. Although Evaluardjuk’s subject matter was quite varied, he is most famous for his “Henry bears” which sold briskly locally and in the South.
Like his famous colleague Pauta Saila from Cape Dorset, despite the great number of bears he carved Evaluardjuk managed to imbue each one with vitality, dangerous strength, and personality. Dancing Bear is a particularly delightful creation, reminiscent of the artist’s anthropomorphic whale bone Gesturing Bear of 1974 (Walker’s May 2012, Lot 47) but even more daringly posed. Evaluardjuk carved a number of fine standing bears, but this remarkable bear’s stance is positively balletic. The portrayal of the animal’s physique is exceptionally delicate and nuanced, but it is the pose that amazes; it seems tentative and ever so slightly comical, but all in all it is beautifully balanced and wonderfully graceful. Who knows, perhaps we are looking at the future Fred Astaire of bears.
References: For exceptional standing bears by Evaluardjuk, in various sizes and materials, see Walker’s Auctions, May 2016, Lot 102; Walker’s May 2012, Lot 93; Walker’s May 2012, Lot 47. For an impressive Waving Polar Bear Seated on a Rock see First Arts, May 2019, Lot 22.