Canadian Art: Kenojuak Ashevak

1970 stamp - Ashevak

Today we’re launching a new feature on Great Dark Wonder – a collaboration with Speaking of Art, an art education initiative seeking to foster greater appreciation of and knowledge about art.  They have kindly agreed to share occasional pieces about Canadian art with us – be sure to follow them on Facebook to learn more about artists from around the world!

The most acclaimed modern Inuit artist, Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013), was born in an igloo on Baffin Island and lived her entire life in Nunavut, the northernmost territory of Canada. In the 1950s, James Houston, a federal administrator for the region, encouraged Ashevak to draw and promoted her art as a means to supplement her family’s income. She worked primarily with colored pencil, and her drawings were made into stonecut or lithographic prints. Although she shied away from depicting Inuit myths and legends, Ashevak’s art is nevertheless imbued with the essence of her people. Her images feature native animals — primarily birds, the owl was her favorite — and foliage. In later years, she traveled the world as an ambassador for Inuit art. “The Enchanted Owl” (1960), Ashevak’s most well-known work, has become an iconic image of Canadian art. Nearly five decades later, she created “Beautiful Fish” (2005) and continued to draw until her death at age 85.

See more works by Kenojuak Ashevak at the National Gallery of Canada.

“The Enchanted Owl” was featured on a Canadian postage stamp (shown here) in 1970, ten years after it was created.

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