Bear Spirit

About this object

History of use

Contemporary Inuit prints were first produced at Cape Dorset in 1957. Although precursors to printmaking can be seen in women's skin applique work and in men's incising of ivory, stone and bone, the impetus for printmaking was as a commercial venture. This venture was established jointly by Inuit artists and John Houston, the civil administrator for Cape Dorset. Other Inuit communities quickly followed the commercial success of Cape Dorset's West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative. Printmaking developed as a communal activity following a Japanese, rather than a Western, model of serigraph production. Each year the cooperatives produce a series of limited edition prints which are sold in the retail art market. In 1965, the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council was established from the Canadian Eskimo Art Committee to ensure high standards were maintained. Printmaking, along with stone carving, provide cash income for communities which have undergone rapid and significant change, during the late 20th century, from traditional hunting based societies to settled communities dependent on consumer goods. The prevalent images depicted in Inuit art are of traditional life, arctic animals and mythology. Recently, contemporary subjects have been depicted by a minority of artists.

Cultural context

contemporary art

Physical description

Two profile polar bears facing opposite directions. Background consists of stylized limbs, wings, eyes, talons, parts of bodies of birds and fish-like animals. Below image in pencil from side on left: Cape Dorset stylized 'red igloo' seal above name of printmaker in Inuit syllabics, "Bear spirit lithograph 33/50 Dorset 1979 Mayoriak," name of artist in Inuit syllabics. Canadian Eskimo Arts Council's blind embossed stamp in lower corner on right. The print is on horizontally rectangular off-white paper mounted with off-white matboard and framed.