Magic Circle

About this object

History of use

The Inuit prints consist of stencils, stonecut engravings and lithographs from the communities of Cape Dorset, Baker Lake, Povunenituk, Holman Island, Pangnirtung and Clyde River. The first Cape Dorset prints were in 1959, Povunenituk in 1962, Holman Island in 1965, Baker Lake in 1970, Pangnirtung in 1973 and Clyde River in 1981. Since the late 1940's Indian and Northern Affairs have supported the development of art from the Canadian Arctic in co-operation with the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council. Catalogues have been published since 1959 and most of the prints are documented in their year of production. The community of Baker Lake is 320 kilometres inland from the west coast of Hudson Bay and has existed since 1916. In the 1950's the Inuit suffered great deprivation due to the reduction in the numbers of caribou. At this time, the federal government wanting to encourage economic independence sponsored an arts and crafts programme. In 1961-1962, William Larmour, an officer with Northern Affairs collected pencil drawings which convinced him that a graphic programme was feasible. Gabriel Gily, a French artist, came as Arts and Crafts Officer in 1963 to develop the print programme. Roderick McCarthy, who replaced Gily, supervised the programme and in August 1965 the first prints were enthusiastically received by the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council. The first collection, issued in 1970, contained 27 of the early prints. The Sanavick Co-operative was incorporated in 1971. The imagery of the prints is bold and brilliant in colour with an emphasis on shamanistic and supernatural subject matter with the common element of a strong tie to traditional life. The technique is usually stonecut and stencil.


Balshine family collection.

Cultural context

contemporary art

Physical description

Stoncut and stencil print with a black and white border around the central design. There are two red, black, and white ulus with one at the top and one at the bottom. Two horizontal white hearts on each side. Between the hearts and ulus, there are four brown and turquoise fish like creatures. In the middle, there is a yellow circle with a black centre containing four small circles within circles. In the lower right corner, there is a small yellow image of a right pointing arrow emerging from a bulge pointing to pencilled syllabic. Pencil inscription across the bottom edge reads 'Magic Circle, A/P III/III 1971 Oonark, Seevoga'. Stamped with names of artist and printmaker in Inuit syllabics in monogram form with Baker Lake bow and arrow in right corner. The print is on vertically rectangular white paper, mounted on off-white matboard and framed.