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LIKE NEW * RARE * VINTAGE * 1960’s * INUIT ART SCULTURE *
IVORY POLAR BEAR * WALRUS TUSK OR SPERM WHALE TOOTH * SERPENTINE BASE *
PAULOOSIE PADLUQ * 1917 – PRESENT * KIMMIRUT, BAFFIN INSLAND *

The polar bear*, made in the 1960’s, was carved from ivory, either walrus tusk or sperm whale tooth – before the 1973 Marine Mammal Protection Act**. The base, the green serpentine stone, is a form found in the south of Baffin Island. The sculptor, a native of Kimmirut, is Pauloosie Padluq. The piece is inscribed on the bottom, in Inuktitut, with Pauloosie’s disk number, E7 – 172. Pauloosie’s artwork can be found in the collections at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

*Many Inuit carvers strive to make polar bear sculptures. Since this animal is difficult to carve, usually only experienced individuals can produce decent bears. Novice carvers tend to begin with easier subjects such as seals and whales – a single solid body -- before moving onto polar bears. This is the main reason why a polar bear sculpture will be priced higher than a seal or whale sculpture of similar size.

**1973 Marine Mammal Protection Act placed international restrictions on ivory uses and sales. Subsequently, there was a marked shortage, decline and availability in it being used, which adds extra value to this piece.

Information courtesy of John and Vicky, inuitimages.com and Karel Stevens, canuit.com

SPECIFICS:

POLAR BEAR: 2 3/4" L X 2.5" W x 7/8" H
BASE: 3 3/4" L X 2" W x 7/8" H

Pauloosie Padluq (1917 – Present). Born in Kimmirut, Nunavut Territory, Canada. Kimmirut, “a heel” in Inuktitut, is named after a rock formation across from the inlet which resembles one. Kimmirut, formerly called Lake Harbor, is situated on the south shore of Baffin Island, an Arctic wilderness located in the extreme northeast part of Canada.

Pauloosie Padluq comes from a people with a long, rich heritage of making things, whether one calls it “sculpture” or “carving” for “utilitarian” or “spiritual/magic” objects. For the Inuit and their ancestors, “art” is deeply embedded in cultures which have survived the cruel, harsh Arctic environment for thousands of years. As nomads, they lived by hunting and fishing, travelling across their land with the herds and seasons. Everyone had specific functions, tasks, to ensure survival. All of their utensils, tools, clothing and weapons were hand made from natural found materials: stone, bone, ivory, antler and animal hides.
The Inuit of Baffin Island use art as a way to tell the stories and keep alive the traditions from one generation to the next. Unique, one-of-a-kind sculptures, carefully hand-carved by the artists is of exceptional quality. More than just decorative pieces, they reflect the deep connections that indigenous people have to one another, past generations, the land and nature, as well as a spiritual connection to the earth. The majority of their artwork reflects the wilderness and environment of Baffin Island: objects such as whales, seals, walruses, bears, wolves, eagles, falcons, fish, shamans, hunters, mothers and babies and many more.

Inuit sculpture differs depending on the region. In Nunavat, there is a particularly pronounced narrative spirit. The presence of numerous details, more or less realistic, enriches the diverse scenes of everyday life, figures and animals. As in any art, every sculptor develops their own style and themes of predilection.

Please feel free to email me with any questions. Thank you!

The more scholarly narrative of Inuit Art history is briefly as follows:

PREHISTORIC:

The Canadian Arctic has been inhabited for more than 4,000 years. The first inhabitants came from Siberia, crossing over the Bering Strait. They migrated across Canada's Arctic as far east as Greenland, and as far south as Newfoundland. Remnants of this culture consist mostly of small tools and weapons. Around 800 B.C., the Dorset culture emerged producing a significant amount of figurative art between 600 B.C. to 1000 A.D. The Dorsets utilized ivory, bone, antler, and occasionally stone, to create small-scale birds, bears, walruses, seals, and human figures, as well as masks. These items had a magical or religious significance, and were either worn as amulets or used in shamanic rituals.

Around 1,000 A.D., the people of the Thule culture, ancestors of today's Inuit, migrated from northern Alaska and are believed to have either displaced or slaughtered the earlier Dorset inhabitants. Thule art was based on Alaskan prototypes. It included some human and animal figures, but consisted mainly of the graphic embellishment of utilitarian objects such as such as combs, buttons, needle cases, cooking pots, ornate spears and harpoons. The decorative incised markings are considered ornamental, without any religious significance.

HISTORIC:

This period began in the 1770’s, continuing until the 1940’s. The white man, mostly whalers, traders and missionaries, made contact, interacting with the Inuits, effectively colonizing their lands. Bargaining for tea, weapons and firearms, Inuit carvings, including replicas of tools and western style goods, usually made of ivory became common trade goods. The collecting of Inuit “art” and artifacts, also began, preferably pieces of traditional scenes of Inuit culture and life. As these pieces evolved, they became increasingly delicate, detailed and of larger sizes.
By the mid 1800’s, most Inuit art was made for a “tourist” market. Ivory miniatures were made to decorate European rifles, tools, boats and musical instruments. Larger pieces, often with a base or stand, turned pieces into table top displays, pieces of “art work”. Carved walrus , cribbage boards, dice, games, models and toys were the most popular items.

CONTEMPORARY:

At first glance, Inuit sculpture may seem to be a relatively homogeneous art form, however, its subject matter and styles are richly varied. The Inuit population (about 56,000 in 2002) is widely distributed across northern Canada, with settlements, ranging in population from a few hundred to 1,000 people, dotting the Canadian Arctic coastline. Each of the thirty plus art-producing communities has developed its regional styles with their favorite subjects and distinctive sculptural styles.

The themes of Arctic wildlife and traditional Inuit hunting and family scenes are still popular but spirit figures, mythological and shamanic images have emerged “Inuit sculpture” refers mainly to sculptures which include the art works made from 1948-1949 - present. The Contemporary Period began in 1949, when a young artist, named James Houston, introduced this art form to The Canadian Handicrafts Guild in Montreal. The Canadian Federal Government recognized the potential economic benefit of commercial carving to the Inuit, and actively encouraged its development and promotion. The early evolution was greatly assisted by the Hudson's Bay Company and the Canadian Handicrafts Guild. Inuit-owned cooperatives were established in the 1950s and 60s in most Arctic communities, as well as art marketing agencies in southern Canada.

Hence, in the early 50’s, there rose a timely new market as the fur trade was no longer lucrative for the Inuit, especially the ones who started to settle down. In sculpture, they found a new source of income. They represented the fauna surrounding them as well as diverse scenes of their usual everyday life. In less than a decade, art works inspired by legends and mythic tales started to appear. To the non-Inuit, these were “traditional” sculptures, but for the Inuit themselves, they were a direct result from this new demand. The artists were fully aware that they were producing works for an outside market, learning that this market brought its own demands of subject, composition and workmanship.

THE BEAR IN INUIT ART:

The bear was/is a magical animal, possessing a myriad of other worldly powers. Numerous Inuit legends exist: a time when man and beast enjoyed a closer co-existence; where bears were able to transform into people. Always recognizable as bears, they appeared much sturdier than regular humans. Many Inuit believed that when bears entered their dens in winter time, they removed their skin and adopted a human-like form. Other legends told stories of bears transforming themselves into birds and blocks of ice in order to avoid being killed by hunters; of bear spirits tormenting those who refused to share their food and delivering captured prey to those who were starving due to being outcast by their peers
Some of the earliest Inuit and Pre-Inuit sculptures were amulets depicting bears. These would assist in summoning spirit helpers to aid in the hunt. Possession of the amulet would endow the hunter with some of the bears finely honed hunting skills, aiding hunters feed their family.

In Inuit Art, bears remain one of the most popular subjects. Often depicted in carvings and statues, they symbolize the Inuit’s deep connection with both the natural and the spiritual worlds. Their connection to Inuit spirituality arises from the Inuit belief that the universe is inhabited by human beings, dead beings (inuviniit) and spirits (tuurngait). The Inuit believe that each human being has a spiritual essence ‘tarniq’ and a breath of life ‘arnirniq’, which are passed on to new human or animal bodies when somebody dies. In the past, shamans served as intermediaries between the human world, the world of dead beings and the spirit world. They received power and strength from tuurngaits in order to do this. The tuurngaits that helped the shamans often took the form of polar bears.

CARVING:

Stone has replaced ivory as the most popular carving material in contemporary Inuit art, resulting in a greater variety of colors and forms, but also to the larger size of many modern Inuit sculptures. Stone is the most versatile carving material because it can be worked to almost any size and shape. Stones used are serpentine, serpentinite, siltstone, argillite, dolomite, and quartz. Their colors range from rather dull grey to luscious, almost semi-precious greens, whites, blue-greens, and blacks.

The necessary skills, perfected in the fashioning of traditional implements, have been passed down through generations of Inuit. Most sculptures are still produced with hand tools, although a growing number of artists use small power tools as well. Saws, axes and adzes, hammers and chisels are used for the initial roughing out stages of a carving. Files, rasps and, finally, steel wool and sandpaper are utilized for fine work and finishing. Penknives or nails may be used for detailed incising.

From inuitart.com, thecanadianencylopedia.ca, eskimoart.com, freespiritgallery.com, inuitarteskimoart.com, inuitartsculptures.com, inuitartzone.com, inuitsculptures.com, looknorthny.com nothernimages.com and Wikipedia.

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