OSUITOK IPEELEE, R.C.A. (1923-2005)
an American private collection
Osuitok Ipeelee vies with Karoo Ashevak of Taloyoak (1940-1974) for the honour of being considered the most brilliant and imaginative Inuit sculptor of all time. His technical mastery of stone is legendary, and the scope of his visual imagination is impressive. Osuitok could be – and was – a carver of breathtaking naturalistic beauty one week, and a daring abstract sculptor the next.
In Jean Blodgett’s article on Osuitok she wrote: “He pays tribute to the Inuit woman’s ability to fish, sew and care for children, and he frankly admires their physical form” (p. 46). Blodgett’s article illustrates an early example, the famous and striking Fisherwoman from 1963, in the TD-Bank Collection. The TD sculpture is stunning but it was carved before Osuitok’s mature style fully blossomed. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s this artist created important masterpieces in all of his favourite subject categories: birds, caribou, and women.
Our Fisherwoman, from the late 1970s, is not the largest known example but it is the most refined that we can recall ever seeing. The woman’s facial features and body proportions are exquisite, and we love the way Osuitok shows off both the clothing and the woman’s figure; her sense of balance and movement is lively and graceful; and the carving and finishing are sensuous and flawlessly executed. This Fisherwoman is poised, full of joy, and drop-dead gorgeous. Even the fish that she so proudly holds is an astonishingly beautiful small sculpture. Wow.
References: for other excellent examples of fisherwomen by Osuitok see Toronto-Dominion Bank, The Eskimo Art Collection of the Toronto-Dominion Bank (1972) cat. 73; also illus. in Jean Blodgett, “Osuitok Ipeelee” in Alma Houston, ed., Inuit Art: An Anthology, Watson & Dwyer, 1988, p. 46. See also Walker’s May 2012, Lot 17; Nov. 12, Lot 60; May 2016, Lot 48.
First Arts: Inuit & First Nations Art Auction www.firstarts.ca