LOT 019

Niviaksiak (Niviaxie)
1908 - 1959
Canadian Indigenous

Polar Bear and Cub in Ice
skin stencil
signed, titled, editioned 30/20, dated June 1959, inscribed "Cape Dorset, Baffin Island" and "Skin Stencil" and stamped by the Canadian Eskimo Art Committee and on verso certified by the Canadian Eskimo Art label
13 1/2 x 24 in 34.3 x 61 cm

Estimate: $18,000 - $22,000

Sold for: $26,325

Preview at: Heffel Vancouver

An Important Private Estate, Montreal

Gerald McMaster, editor, Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2010, reproduced page 73 and the circa 1950s ink and graphite drawing entitled Polar Bear and Cub in Ice, from Niviaksiak Sketchbook, reproduced page 73
Norman Vorano, Inuit Prints: Japanese Inspiration, Early Printmaking in the Canadian Arctic, Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2011, reproduced page 82

A legendary story is attached to the death of Cape Dorset carver and printmaker Niviaksiak. He had become obsessed with the polar bear, and for months had carved or drawn images exclusively of this inscrutable creature. On a hunting trip, he took aim at a polar bear, then suddenly collapsed and died. His hunting companions, afraid for their lives, fled. When they returned, they found Niviaksiak’s body untouched and, strangely, the bear’s tracks ended at the place of confrontation. It was believed that Niviaksiak had delved too deeply for his art and offended the bear spirit.
In current times, Niviaksiak’s refined and striking image of polar bears in the blue Arctic waters is an especially poignant and empathetic one due to the decline of their environment from global warming.
Impressions of both this stencil and Man Hunting at a Seal Hole are in The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection which was donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 1959, Niviaksiak’s print Polar Bear and Cub was used for a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Estimate: $18,000 - $22,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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