Inuit Printmaking: Parr

Parr’s engravings below have struck me as some of the most unusual and interesting prints I’ve seen. Printmaking was never part of a natural art-historical progression in the arctic, and the earliest printmaking studios have only been in existence there since the late 1950’s. Parr made his works at the Cape Dorset studio in Arctic Canada as one of the earliest Inuit artists. The fact that he began to make his work so late in life, and with such a traditional, nomadic background as a hunter makes his art especially interesting, from a western standpoint. Also interesting are questions raised about modernity and western influence in the Arctic regions and the art produced there since the 1950’s. The description below of his work as “naive” seems questionable. Another way of putting it may be to say that his prints have a feeling of frankness and clarity to them that are specific to their context in the Arctic.

Arctic prints have always been a real interest to me, and until recently I hadn’t noticed the importance of Cape Dorset prints to the idea of printmaking to me as a whole. I am interested in the emotion and deceptively simple forms displayed in prints like Parr’s, and would like to achieve in my own prints a similar feeling, though obviously coming out of a completely different background and intent. I especially don’t want to appropriate imagerey or line-quality or subject matter from these prints, but would still somehow like this type of work to be involved in what I make myself.


Walrus Hunt (1963)


Geese and Man (1964)


Untitled (1962)

”  Parr led a traditional nomadic existence for most of his life. A serious hunting accident obliged him to settle permanently in Cape Dorset in 1961, where he began drawing at age 68. In his short artistic career he produced over 2000 drawings and contributed 34 prints to the annual Cape Dorset print collections. Filled with animals and hunters and drawn with a distinctive, primitive style with little regard for naturalism or perspective, Parr’s naive images are powerful expressions of an old man’s love for a disappearing way of life. Often considered crude and childish, his works were largely unappreciated during his lifetime. Only after his death were there major exhibitions of his work, and a posthumously published print, Hunters of Old, was selected for a 1977 Canadian postage stamp.”

Ingo Hessel, The Canadian Encyclopedia, 1985, page 1366.


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