San Francisco

“Canadian Eskimo Prints”

Lowie Mu­seum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

An especially well-­selected group of Eskimo prints, includ­ing both seal skin stencils and stone­cuts––works which, whether derived from their myths or from everyday hap­penings, are used to express humor, imagination and fantasy applied to their Very own world. Printmaking is the natural development of a graphic art growing out of a sculptural one, which is causing a renaissance in the art of the Cape Dorset Eskimo, long noted for his expressive stone carvings and the sealskin appliqués of his women. It is a new art form to Eskimos, in­troduced to them by painter James A. Houston and furthered by the establish­ment of a Craft Center or printmaking at Cape Dorset by Canada’s Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources. Actually, these stone-block prints and sealskin stencils are a cultural marriage insofar as inks and papers are imported to be used in combination with the traditional Eskimo materials and techniques. The Eskimo artist has both gained and lost by this union––commercial materials allow him greater speed and flexibility than the scraped sealskin support and fat-and­-soot or fat-and-rust colors originally used, but the addition of yellows, blues and greens to his palette has not en­hanced the expressive silhouette he has used to such advantage for cen­turies. Nor has the use of toned papers added anything, esthetically.

E. M. Polley