Augustine Anaittuq

Augustine Anaittuq (1935-1992) was born at Qasigiaqsiurvik near Chesterfield Inlet, NU [1]. He moved to Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay) where he established himself as an artist. Anaittuq was versatile in his practice, creating work as an illustrator, printmaker and was most well known for his sculptures. Anaittuq began to carve around 1966, primarily working in bone and ivory [2]. His sculptural figures were composite beings, comprised of elements and textures of bone from different animals. Anaittuq would often carve the torso of his figures from large, dense elements and use a complete, often vertebral, element as the head or face. He occasionally incorporated other materials into his sculpture, creating mixed media compositions with fur and stone.

The work Muskox (1990) is an example of Annaituq’s composite sculptural style. Though titled Muskox, the piece was created without the use of any muskox bone. The bulk of the figure is composed from a single large whale bone that forms the neck, torso and draping coat of the muskox figure. A small pelvic bone, possibly that of an arctic hare, shapes the figure’s face; two large holes represent its nostrils while the rest of the element curves backwards, transforming into horns. Caribou antler was used to carve the slim, exposed legs of the figure as well as its distinctive bulging eyes. Muskox (1990) was featured on the cover of the fall 1997 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly and is held in the Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, ON [3].  

Walrus bones, particularly jaws, are a medium that Anaittuq often returns to. Areas of post-mortem breakage are accentuated in the piece Carved Walrus Jaw (n.d.) to form the nostrils of a fearsome whale; holes in the mandible created by intersecting blood vessels become nostrils and eyes for other creatures. The robusticity of the material allowed Anaittuq to carve deeply into the surface without exposing the trabecular material beneath, or alter the overall shape of the element. Anaittuq exemplifies the natural characteristics of the elements he works with to embellish his sculpture with character and expression.

Anaittuq’s sculptural works were featured in the solo exhibition Augustin Anaittuq (1985) at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, ON. He was soon after included in the prominent travelling exhibition In the Shadow of the Sun: Perspectives on Contemporary Native Art (1988-1989) held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, QC [4]. Anaittuq contributed four small ivory sculptures to the exhibition, titled Drying Fish (1975), Tall and Thin (1975), Short and Fat (1975), and Suicide (1975), in a series that provided commentary on the recent impacts of colonization and forced settlement upon Inuit communities [5]. Anaittuq’s works were most recently featured in the exhibition Inuit Modern (2012) at the McCord Museum in Montreal, QC, which explored the development of Inuit art in the 20th century and featured works from the Esther and Samuel Sarick collection on loan from the Art Gallery of Ontario [6].



Citations/Footnotes

1. Artist CV “Augustin Anaittuq,” Dorset Fine Arts, accessed March 23, 2018.
2. Marie Routledge, Ingo Hessel, “Regional Diversity in Contemporary Inuit Sculpture,” Inuit Art Quarterly 5, no. 3(Summer 1990): 19.
3. Inuit Art Foundation, “Front cover…,” Inuit Art Foundation 12, no. 3(Fall 1997): 1.
4. Marie Routledge and Ingo Hessel, “Contemporary Inuit Sculpture: An approach to the Medium, the Artists, and Their Work,” in In the Shadow of the Sun: Perspectives on Contemporary Native Art, ed. Gerhard Hoffmann (Gatineau: Canadian Museum of History, 1993): 464.
5. Elizabeth Schotten Merklinger, “Reviews: In the Shadow of the Sun,” Inuit Art Quarterly 4, no. 4(Fall 1989): 20.
6. Nadia Slejskova, “McCord Museum - Inuit Modern,” Art Frame last modified February 27, 2012. https://artframe.blogspot.ca/2012/02/.