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 Johnny Inukpuk  (1911 - 2007)

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada      Known for: Inuit sculpture, carving, figure, animals, symbolism, mythology

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E9904 is primarily known as Johnny Inukpuk

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Ad Code: 3
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from Auction House Records.
Mother and Son, probably 1952
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Johnny Inukpuk RCA (1911 –  2007) (1)

An important carver of the early ‘modern period’ of Inuit Art*, Johnny Inukpuk was born in Kuujjuarapik, Quebec, on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. In the 1950s, he moved about 200 miles south, to Inukjuak (aka: Inoucdjouac or Port Harrison), Quebec where he lived the rest of his life and died. Inukpuk was one of the first Inuit artists elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts*. His life and work are discussed in numerous books on Inuit art, the Canadian Encyclopedia has an entry for him, and he was listed in the Canadian Who’s Who until the year after his death. His carvings have been included in many landmark exhibitions and his works are in several important museum collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art,* which has three of his sculptures in its permanent collection and illustrated online. Johnny is also the progenitor of a distinguished family of artists; among them his sons Johnny Inukpuk Jr., Charlie Inukpuk, and Daniel Inukpuk (see AskART). (2)(3)

Inukpuk’s mediums were stone, ivory, whalebone*, antler and mixed mediums. His subjects included mother and child, portraits, figures, birds, animals, shamans, symbolism*, spirituality, mythology, and Inuit genre* (e.g. nomadic life, family activities, hunting, fishing, etc.). His style is described as Primitive Art* or Inuit Art*. AskART images have many good illustrations of his work. (4)

Quote: “Inukpuk is best known for the work he made in the 1950s and 1960s. It invariably shows a figure in the act of doing something: feeding a child, cooking, blowing up an avataq (sealskin float), or stretching out a sealskin line. This concern for details of daily life has been a trademark of sculpture from Inukjuak since the early contemporary period. Inukpuk's wife, Mary, had a harelip, which was reflected in several of his female sculptures. The drilled eyes of his earlier works were eventually replaced by soapstone and ivory inlay; black eyes were achieved by melting down vinyl records.” (5)

Inukpuk began carving in the early 1950s after James Houston's first visit to Inukjuak. Like many Inuit artists, Inukpuk was largely self-taught. Perhaps his only outside influences would be the staff of a government organized community arts and crafts centre. The art dealers and traders who worked at it or visited it would naturally give the Inuit artists feedback on what subjects and materials sold best in the Canadian and international markets to the south. For more information about the origin and inspiration of Inuit Art* see the AskART glossary entry for Inuit Art* and the AskART record for James Houston.

Quote: “Saumik [James Houston] was the one that started people to carve, so I did. Carving gave us independence that we never had before.” Johnny Inukpuk (1998). (6)

Since the very beginning of the modern era of Inuit Art – the early 1950s – and up to the present day,  Inukpuk’s carvings have been included in numerous important exhibitions, such as “Eskimo Carvings: Coronation [of Queen Elizabeth II] Exhibition”, Gimpel Fils, London, England (1953); “Eskimo Sculpture”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1955); “Comparisons”, Art Gallery of Toronto, Ontario (1957); “Commonwealth Arts Festival”, Royal Academy of Arts, London, England (1965); “An Exhibition of Eskimo Sculpture, Eskimo Prints and Paintings of Norval Morrisseau”, Art Association of Newport, Rhode Island (1968); “Sculpture of the Inuit: Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic”*, British Museum, London, et al. [see glossary] (1971); “The Art of the Eskimo”, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. (1971); “Eskimo Art”, Queens Museum, Flushing, New York (1975); “Inuit Art: A Selection of Inuit Art from the Collection of the National Museum of Man, Ottawa, and the Rothmans Permanent Collection of Inuit Sculpture, Canada”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec (1981); “The Jacqui and Morris Shumiatcher Collection of Inuit Art”, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan (1981); “The Inuit of Northern Quebec”, Quebec Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec City (1982); “Inuit Masterworks”, McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinberg, Ontario (1983); “The Arctic”, UNESCO, Paris, France (1983); “The Art of the Eskimo”, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. (1984); “In the Shadow of the Sun: Contemporary Indian and Inuit Art in Canada”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec and touring (1988 – 1989); “Arctic Mirror”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec (1990); “Moving Around the Form: Inuit Sculpture and Prints”, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1991); “The Inuit Imagination”, Winnipeg Art Gallery*, Manitoba (1993); “Arctic Spirit: 35 Years of Canadian Inuit Art”, Frye Art Museum, Seattle (1994); “Inuit Woman: Life and Legend in Art”, Winnipeg Art Gallery*, Manitoba (1995); “Creation & Continuity: Inuit Art from the Shumiatcher Collection”, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan (1998); “Iqqaipaa: Celebrating Inuit Art, 1948 – 1970”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec (1999); “Early Masters: Inuit Sculpture 1949 – 1955”, Winnipeg Art Gallery*, Manitoba (2006); “Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum”, Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona (touring the USA 2006 – 2011); and, ItuKiagattal! Inuit Sculpture from the Collection of the TD Bank Financial Group, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.C. (2007).

Recently, his works were included in “Creation & Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art” at the Winnipeg Art Gallery*, Manitoba (2013).

His works have also been included in solo and group exhibitions at prominent commercial galleries, such as Houston North Gallery, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia; Koffler Gallery, Toronto; Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, B.C.; Marion Scott Gallery, Vancouver, B.C.; Albers Gallery of Inuit Art, San Francisco; Images of the North, San Francisco; Raven Gallery, Minneapolis; Maslak McLeod, Santa Fe; Arctic Artistry, Scarsdale, New York; Yerkes International Gallery, New York City; and Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Verona, Italy.

His works are in many private, corporate, and public collections. According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, examples of his carvings are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario), Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum (Charlottetown, P.E.I.), Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Museum of Anthropology (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa). They’re also in the Lorne Balshine Inuit Art Collection on display at Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, B.C.; and in the TD Gallery of Inuit Art at the Toronto-Dominion Centre, Toronto, Ontario.

(1) Researchers please note: Information for this biography was obtained from the listed sources using two different recognized last names for the artist – Inukpuk and Innukpuk. The Getty Union List of Artist Names includes three additional alternate full names for this artist, they are: Johnny Manumi Inukpuk, Jaani and Yani. There are two carvings in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts identified as by Johnny Manumi Inukpuk, nine carvings in the Canadian Museum of Civilization identified as by Yani, and there is one carving in the Canadian Museum of Civilization identified as by Jaani Airuq. Stylistically they could all be by the same artist. Inukpuk also has a Canadian government issued Inuit Disc Number* – E9904 – which may be used to sign works, and a signature in syllabics* which is frequently used to sign works.

(2) Please note: Inukpuk lived a nomadic life until the 1950s, thus a specific birth place may not be possible to identify. Some sources say he was born in Inukjuak. It is more likely he was born somewhere near Inukjuak or Kuujjuarapik. The Inuit Art Foundation, part of the Canadian Heritage Information Network* says Kuujjuarapik is his birthplace; Artists in Canada which is also part of the Canadian Heritage Information Network says Inoucdjouac (aka:Inukjuak) is his birthplace.

(3) Inukpuk and John Tiktak (see AskART) were elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of arts in the same year. "Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980" (see AskART book references) says it was 1972 and "Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979" (see AskART book references) says 1973. Both sources agree that Inuit icon Kenojuak Ashevak (see AskART) was elected in 1974. 

(4) “Although known primarily as a sculptor, Inukpuk did make one notable print. Titled “A True Story of Johnny Being Attacked by Three Polar Bears While in His Igloo” (1974), the print documented an encounter with a trio of polar bears who attacked the artist as he lay in his igloo during an overnight hunting trip. Having left his rifle outside the igloo, he managed to fend off the bears with only a stick.” Source: “The Canadian Encyclopedia, Second Edition” (see AskART book references)

(5) Source: Inuit Art Foundation website.

(6) Source: Page 59, “Celebrating Inuit Art: 1948 – 1970” (see AskART book references).


Creation & Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art (2012), edited by Darlene Coward Wight (see AskART book references)

The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century (2010), by Brian Foss, Anne Whitelaw, Sandra Paikowsky (see AskART book references)

Canadian Who’s Who – 2008 (2008), edited by Elizabeth Lumley (see AskART book references)

Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum (2006), by Ingo Hessel (see AskART book references)

Early Masters: Inuit Sculpture 1949 – 1955 (2006), by Darlene Coward Wight (see AskART book references)

Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

Sculpture of the Inuit” (2000), by George Swinton (see AskART book references)

Inuit Art: A History (2000), by Richard C. Crandall (see AskART book references)

Celebrating Inuit Art: 1948 – 1970 (1999), edited by Maria Von Finckenstein (see AskART book references)

Inuit Art: An Introduction (1998), by Ingo Hessel and Dieter Hessel (see AskART book references)

Saint James Guide to Native North American Artists (1998), by Roger Matuz (see AskART book references)

The Inuit Imagination: Arctic Myth and Sculpture (1993), by Harold Seidelman and James Turner (see AskART book references)

In the Shadow of the Sun: Perspectives on Contemporary Native Art”(1993), edited by the Canadian Museum of Civilization (see AskART book references)

Sculpture of the Inuit (1992), by George Swinton (see AskART book references)

Inuit Art: An Anthology”(1988), by Alma Houston, et al (see AskART book references)

The Canadian Encyclopedia Second Edition (1988), edited by James H. Marsh (see AskART book references)

Inuit Art Section: Catalogue of Services and Collections (1984), Research and Documentation Centre on Inuit Art (see AskART book references)

Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980" (1980), by Rebecca Sisler (see AskART book references)

Sculpture of the Eskimo (1972), by George Swinton (see AskART book references)

Sculpture/ Inuit: Sculpture of the Inuit, Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic (1971), by William E. Taylor Jr., George Swinton and James Houston (see AskART book references)

Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references)

Canadian Heritage Information Network*

Getty Union List of Artist Names

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Written and submitted by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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