Artwork by Lucy Qinnuayuak,  Large Bear

Lucy Q. Kinngait
Large Bear

colour stonecut
titled, dated 1961, inscribed “Lucy”, “Cape Dorset, Baffin Island, N.W.T.” and numbered 38/50 in the lower margin
22 x 29.5 ins ( 55.9 x 74.9 cms ) ( sheet )

Auction Estimate: $9,000.00$6,000.00 - $9,000.00

Price Realized $11,210.00
Sale date: November 19th 2019

Private Collection, Ontario
Inuit Art Foundation, “True to Form: The Printmakers of Kinngait Studios”, Inuit Art Quarterly, Fall 2019, page 31
Known for her dynamic and whimsical prints and drawings of birds, Lucy Qinnuayuak was a graphic marvel, even amongst her peers in a community like Kinngait (Cape Dorset) - where a powerhouse of artistic talent resides. A prolific artist, Lucy Qinnuayuak began drawing in the 1950s, she later began printmaking and her career thrived as the market for Inuit art picked up in the south. Her works appeared in nearly every annual Cape Dorset print release from 1961 to 1982. During this time, collectors lined up in the wee hours of the morning outside galleries for their chance to acquire a work by Lucy or one of her contemporaries like Kenojuak Ashevak. 

Her subjects were not confined to birds however, her body of work was sprinkled with depictions of family life and other imagery of life in the Canadian Arctic, more often than not infused with her signature playful flare. Interestingly, one of Lucy's most famous images is not a bird but rather a polar bear. Her stonecut print “Large Bear” (1961) possesses wonderfully exaggerated features; a massive rump, legs and paws and a pea-sized head. One can't overlook the contented air of Lucy's bear, perhaps with a belly full of seal after a successful hunt. Lucy's polar bear is not a ferocious creature, instead he looks poised and pleased as punch.

The printing stone was carved by skilled artist Eegyvudluk Pootoogook (1931-2000), one of the first group of printmakers trained by James Houston in the late 1950s. "While Eegyvudluk Pootoogook rarely made his own prints, he is responsible for incising over 200 stonecuts, including the iconic Enchanted Owl (1960) by Kenojuak Ashevak, CC, ON, RCA (1927-2013)." As is common with stonecut printing, a collaborative hands-on process, variations in shades and saturation of pigment can be seen between editions, ranging from blues to greens and everywhere in between. The colouring of this print leans more towards shades of green.  

Often colloquially referred to as "Lucy's big bear" this work was originally issued at $85 when it was released. Just twenty years later when it first appeared on the resale market it fetched an impressive $8000 at Sotheby's auction in Toronto. It has been considered a prize for collectors of not just Lucy's work but for those collectors seeking the iconic images from the first generation of graphic artists. 

The stonecut of her print ”Large Bear” (1961) and the printing stone itself was donated to the Tate Gallery in London, UK and was later put on display at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, UK. Her prints are also held in many major Canadian artistic institutions, including the the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg, MB and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

Lucy's influence on future generations of artists from Kinngait cannot be denied. Her whimsy and fluidity of form can be seen in the works of third generation artists like the incredibly talented Ooloosie Saila or Ningeokuluk Teevee. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Inuit printmaking in Cape Dorset.  

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Lucy Qinnuayuak
(1915 - 1982)