“Crouching Mother Cradling Child, ca. 1955” by Johnny Inukpuk

By: Palmer Jarvis

Lot 159 – Johnny Inukpuk ᔭᓂ ᐃᓄᐳ, RCA (1911-2007), Inukjuak (Port Harrison). CROUCHING MOTHER CRADLING CHILD, CA. 1955; stone, ivory, melted phonograph records; unsigned. 5 x 9.5 x 4.5 in — 12.7 x 24.1 x 11.4 cm. Estimate $20,000-$30,000

Said to be one of, if not the best known, of the early masters of Inuit sculpture, Johnny Inukpuk was born the son of a respected camp leader. Inukpuk was said to be a respected camp leader in his own right as early as 1958, along with Abraham Nastapoka and Sarollie Weetaluktuk, three of the earliest 20th century sculptors in Inukjuak (Port Harrison). (1) Inukpuk worked in a range of styles but is probably best known for his rendering of beautifully polished, soft rounded features. In the middle 1950s many of his works were inset with hard rubber from melted phonograph records, as well as ivory inlay, often embellished with finely incised designs.

Darlene Coward Wight, in her text Early Masters: Inuit Sculpture 1949-1955, notes that Inukpuk was particularly talented in locating excellent stone, which “is characterised by pronounced, translucent layers that glow in the light, and by gold patches that enhance this opalescent effect. Inukpuk made intelligent use of this colourful stone by reducing carved details and creating smooth, round forms that are polished to a shiny brilliance.” (2)

Crouching Mother and Child, dated ca. 1955, pushes the artist’s use of soft contours and minimal forms to the limit, creating an artwork unmatched in Inukjuak sculpture of the era for its original use of reductive composition. The mother has taken her arms out of the sleeves of her amauti, and bundled inside it, echoes the form of her swaddled child held barely visible through the garment’s opening. Fine details are embellished with inlay and delicate incising. The original fine polishing of the surface is still evident.



Held online from May 24-29, 2024, Waddington’s is pleased to present our major spring auction of exceptional Inuit & First Nations Art. Important artworks this season include works of sculpture and graphics by Karoo Ashevak, Jessie Oonark, Kiakshuk, John Pangnark, Pauta Saila, Aisa Qupirualu Alasua, Parr, Osuitok Ipeelee, Kiugak Ashoona, Joe Talirunili, John Kavik, Kenojuak Ashevak, Johnny Inukpuk, Thomas Ugjuk, Ennutsiak, Davidialuk Alasua Amittu, Beau Dick, Charlie James, David Ruben Piqtoukun, Abraham Apakark Anghik, Manasie Akpaliapik, Judas Ullulaq, Barnabus Arnasungaaq, and John Tiktak.

Previews will be available at our Toronto gallery, located at 275 King Street East, Second Floor, Toronto:

Thursday, May 23 from 10 am to 5 pm
Friday, May 24 from 10 am to 5 pm
Saturday, May 25 from 12 pm to 4 pm
Sunday, May 26 from 12 pm to 4 pm
Monday, May 27 from 10 am to 5 pm
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Please contact us for more information

(1) Darlene Coward Wight, Early Masters: Inuit Sculpture 1949-1955 (Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2006), 22.
(2) Wight, Early Masters, 84.

Related Works:
Waddington’s Auctioneers, Toronto, ON, 7 Dec 1988, lot 257
George Swinton, Sculpture of the Eskimo (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 1972), 50, pl. 7.

Many countries prohibit or restrict importation or exportation of property containing ivory, whale bone, sealskin, and/or products derived from other endangered or protected species, and require special licenses or permits in order to import or export such property. It is the responsibility of the buyer to ensure that the item is properly and lawfully exported / imported. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialists for further details.

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