Inuit Art

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December 09, 2021 at 7:00 pm ET

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LOT 33

Lot 33

JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)

JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)
Lot 33 Details
JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985), Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake)


stroud, thread, embroidery floss
signed in syllabics
47.2 x 53.7 in — 120 x 136.4 cm

Estimate $50,000-$70,000

Realised: $103,200
Price Includes Buyer's Premium ?

Lot Report

Additional Images
JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)
  • JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)
  • JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)
  • JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)
  • JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)
  • JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)

The Innuit Gallery, Toronto, ON, 1971;
Estate of W.A. Ross MacFadden, Toronto, ON


Jessie Oonark, A Retrospective, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1986-1987, cat. 39


Jessie Oonark is the most celebrated Qamani'tuaq (Baker Lake) artist, a master in both graphic and textile arts. Her many drawings, prints and wall hangings can be found in the most important public and private collections of Inuit art worldwide. Her work, regardless of the scale, is always deeply intimate. Oonark's genius for narrative, exceptional in its seamless inclusion of both symbolic and purely decorative elements, is both nostalgic and at times bracingly lively.

In this early masterwork of nivingajuliat (tapestry, or wall-hanging) dating circa 1970, Oonark has created a vibrant composition of colour and form. Drawing heavily from imagery revisited by the artist throughout her career, in a 1971 interview in Toronto, she said of this work that it was inspired by “dreams and memories”. [2.]

Figures in the nivingajuliat seem to both radiate outward from and border a sun-like central face whose surface bristles with depictions of natural life, as well as the crescent shaped ulu knives so strongly associated with the duties of women. The central figure bears a facial tattoo of the type already old-fashioned at the time of Oonark’s youth, and which the artist herself refused to receive.[1, 3]

This lot is accompanied by an Innuit Gallery of Eskimo Art invoice, 1971; a newspaper clipping from the Globe and Mail pertaining to the exhibition of the work, 1971; and a photocopy of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada record of Inuit art in public and private collections document, ref. no. A-3-5.


Blodgett, Jean, and Marie Bouchard. Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1986. p113, pl. 39.


1. Blodgett, Jean, and Marie Bouchard. Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1986. p. 9.

2. Carson, Jo. “Toronto Atmosphere Offends The Artist from Baker Lakes”, The Globe and Mail, April, 3, 1971.

3. Krutak, Lars.Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity. Volendam: LM Publishers, 2014. p. 19.


Condition very good. Minor flaws only.

Please contact the specialist for further condition information.

LOT 33

About Condition Ratings

  • 5 Stars: Excellent - No discernable damage, flaws or imperfections
  • 4 Stars: Very Good - Minor flaws or imperfections visible only under close inspection using specialised instruments or black light
  • 3 Stars: Good - Minor flaws visible upon inspection under standard lighting
  • 2 Stars: Fair - Exhibits flaws or damage that may draw the eye under standard lighting
  • 1 Star: Poor - Flaws or damage immediately apparent under standard lighting (examples: missing components, rips, broken glass, damaged surfaces, etc.)

Note: Condition ratings and condition details are the subjective opinions of our specialists and should be used as a guide only. Waddington’s uses due care when preparing condition details, however, our staff are not professional restorers or conservators. Condition details and reports are not warranties and each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the buyer’s terms and conditions of sale. In all cases the prospective purchaser is responsible for inspecting the property themselves prior to placing a bid.