Cover image for Inuit art : an introduction
Inuit art : an introduction
Hessel, Ingo.
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Publication Information:
New York : Harry N. Abrams, 1998.
Physical Description:
x, 198 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
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E99.E7 H493 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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A general introduction to the contemporary Inuit art of Canada, setting it in its cultural, historical and socio-economic background and giving an overview of regional and individual styles. Illustrated mainly in colour with specially commissioned photographs.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The contemporary graphic art of northern Canada is widely and highly regarded for its rendering of natural motifs in a stylishly flat and decorative fashion. But Inuit art before the introduction of lithography was as artistically sophisticated and complex as any artistic tradition. Hessel presents a chronological view of the development of that tradition, dividing it into prehistoric, historic, and contemporary periods and describing the environmental and social factors that influenced the artists. The selection of artwork depicted is unusually broad, including several famous images (Kenojuak's Enchanted Owl has become an icon of Inuit art) but focusing on less familiar pieces of breathtaking beauty. Especially powerful are the sculptures, which convey the essence of the Inuit vision of the world in their dynamic, often symbolic forms. For its clear prose and its superb and unusual selection of art, the book is worth adding to many collections, even those with other works on the subject. --Patricia Monaghan

Library Journal Review

Native Americans of northern Canada (we would call them Eskimos; they prefer Inuit) inhabit a vast area covering all of upper Canada. In the 1950s, the bottom fell out of their staple money source, the fur market. Fortuitously, their carvings were discovered by the Canadian Handicrafts Guild in Montreal. Now, in some areas, 80 percent of the men and women make their living from carving and other arts. Hessel, a former arts official with the Canadian Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, shows the transformation of basic native craft to the varied, imaginative, and lively art available today. In the style of many books on Native Americans now, the ethnohistory of the tribe is reviewed and the evolution of mythic representations traced. Given few raw materials‘stone, bone, fur, and some ivory in older times and now paper with watercolors, pencils, and pens‘these isolated people produce art full of life and motion and permeated with their rich mythology. Though the scale is modest for most pieces, their physicality draws in the viewer. For larger art or ethnic collections.‘Gay Neale, Southside Virginia Community Coll. Lib., Alberta (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The perplexities of art's aesthetics, form, composition and interpretation, and artists' lives, techniques, and audience, are simply yet carefully described with fine photographs in this invocation of Inuit art. Now a mainstay to Eskimo existence, this exotic style is not often explained by its makers, but Hessel identifies the issues: a culturally shocked and economically impoverished population makes fine/folk/tourist/ethnic/Canadian art with as much variety of intention and result as any culture. And it sells well south of its provenance. Students of art could use this book as a model of what can be said about art, or get ideas of how to be artists. Collectors, private and public, will find many unusual styles and mediums clarified. The aesthetics of the art appear to be a little more eerie than Hessel expresses; outstanding examples of this characteristic are the shamanic sculptures that are assemblages of dried whalebones, antlers, grey stone, and sinew. Footnotes add depth; the index is conscientious, the bibliography extensive. All the photos are of pieces owned by the Canadian Museum of Civilization (formerly the National Museum of Man) in Hull, Quebec; Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario; Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada; or the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Saskatchewan. All levels. E. L. Anderson; formerly, Lansing Community College

Table of Contents

George Swinton
Forewordp. vii
Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgementsp. x
1 The Arctic and the Inuitp. 3
2 Art of the Prehistoric Periodp. 13
3 Art of the Historic Period (1770s to 1940s)p. 21
4 The Dawn of Contemporary Inuit Art (1949 to 1955)p. 29
5 Themes and Subjects in Inuit Artp. 37
6 Sculpture: Tradition and New Directionsp. 73
7 Graphic Artsp. 137
8 Textile Artsp. 171
9 Art and Inuit Identityp. 185
Notesp. 190
Bibliographyp. 194
Indexp. 197