Although imagery had a central place in Inuit culture, Inuit art as it is known today began as a creative solution to acute economic problems in 1948-49 when soapstone and ivory carvings were first made for southern markets. Printmaking was introduced in Cape Dorset in 1957-58. Over the next 20 years, this art form was taken up in many different communities across the sub-polar regions of Canada, and successfully marketed through the establishment of co-operatives.
Glenbow has a wonderful Inuit collection from the early years of commercial art production, including sculpture from the 1940s and 1950s, and some of the first drawings and prints produced in Cape Dorset and other communities. The collection includes rare sculptures by Karoo Ashevak and early drawings by Pitseolak, among others. In terms of First Nations art produced before 1975, Glenbow Museum's art collection features strong holdings of important early work by artists like Norval Morrisseau, Alex Janvier, and Gerald Tailfeathers.
Inuit, Cape Dorset, Nunavut (1923-1961)
Pot Spirits, 1960
stencil on paper
Glenbow Museum Collection; Purchased, 1961
Sheouak never became as famous as other Cape Dorset artists because she died at the age of 38, only a year after her debut with an impressive eight prints in the catalogued collection in editions of 50. This is a favourite with collectors, a three-colour image of the spirits inhabiting her cooking pots. The print was translated from her drawing by Lukta Qiatsuk (b. 1928), one of the finest and most prolific of Cape Dorset's artist-printmakers.