AKEEAKTASHUK (1898-1954) M., INUKJUAK (PORT HARRISON)HUNTER WITH SPEAR AND KNIFE, C. 1950stone, ivory, and soap inlay, 8.25 x 6.25 x 5 in (21 x 15.9 x 12.7 cm)
When James Houston began looking for carvings and handicrafts on his first buying trip to Port Harrison in 1949, Akeeaktashuk eagerly obliged. Apparently he had been carving already for a number of years, so perhaps it should be no surprise that Akeeaktashuk became the most prolific, accomplished, and celebrated of artists in the earliest years of modern Inuit art production. We don’t know if the artist himself thought of making bases for his now iconic images of hunters brandishing their weapons or if Houston suggested it, but we imagine the two men discussing this important innovation!
Hunter with Spear and Knife includes the soap inlay used by Akeeaktashuk and others in the early years, and also the incised trademark drawstring tied just below the hunter’s hood that we see on a number of the artist’s carvings. While the overall stance of this hunter is quite similar to that of the Hunter with Harpoon and Knife which appears earlier in this catalogue (Lot 24), his raised right arm is shown at a sharper angle, with elbow jutting forward rather than sideways. This resembles the example illustrated in George Swinton’s Sculpture of the Inuit, fig. 274. This hunter’s physique is also noticeably slimmer than that seen in Lot 24, so perhaps it is not a self-portrait of the artist, who was known to be rather rotund. Our feeling is that this figure is quite an early version of the subject by Akeeaktashuk.
See the section on Akeeaktashuk in Darlene Coward Wight, Early Masters: Inuit Sculpture 1949-1955 (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2006), pp. 28-37. For other examples see Gerald McMaster ed., Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection(Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2010), p. 69; Christine Lalonde, Sanaugavut: Inuit Art from the Canadian Arctic (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2010), p. 39; George Swinton, Sculpture of the Inuit (Toronto: M&S, 1972/92), fig. 274; Jean Blodgett, Selections from the John and Mary Robertson Collection of Inuit Sculpture (Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, 1986), cat. 31 (also illus. in Walker’s Auctions, Nov. 2011, Lot 33); Toronto-Dominion Bank, The Eskimo Art Collection of the Toronto-Dominion Bank (Toronto: 1967), cat. 2; Walker’s Auctions, Ottawa, Nov. 2015, Lot 26.