ELIZABETH NANUQ OSHUTOOK (1910-1987) ARVIAT (ESKIMO POINT)
stone, 3.25 x 2.25 x 1.5 in (8.3 x 5.7 x 3.8 cm)
NEW PRICE: $300
This delightful small carving of Opposing Figures exhibits several of the defining characteristics particular to some of the most famed artists of the Kivalliq Region, including John Tiktak. Like Tiktak, Nanuq here has made no attempt to mask the marks of her fine toothed rasp and file, yet this intertwined pair seems to radiate an elegant refinement. The present figures even share the same well-rounded heads of Tiktak at the height of his prowess but the minimalist facial features — trapezoidal noses, swiftly hatched horizontal lines for eyes, a chinked v-shaped smile — are created in a style that is more traditionally associated with the Arviat carvers.
Details on Nanuq's life are rather uncertain. We know that her work in the collection of Dr. R.G. Williamson was first illustrated in George Swinton's 1965 publication Eskimo Sculpture (p. 148), which denoted the artist as hailing from Rankin Inlet. The same work was illustrated in Sculpture/Inuit published in 1971 (cat. no. 297), whose index lists Nanuq under the Arviat artists with a footnote that reads "formerly Rankin Inlet."
Interestingly, just as he had done with Tiktak, Swintoin, in his 1965 publication, compared Nanuq's work and its counterparts on the page with Henry Moore. He wrote,
Here are three excellent examples of work which, in earlier times would have been belittled, ignored, or rejected. Today we can recognize them as works of art in terms of Henry Moore's definition; they have intense vitality; they are elemental and simple; they show direct and strong feeling. They have unity of form; they are serene and innocent. They are primitive, but they are not crude .
1. George Swinton, Eskimo Sculpture, (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965), p. 149