Canadian, 20th century
Circle of Animals, 1951
stone, soap inlay
2.4 x 11.7 x 11.7 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; The Ian Lindsay Collection; Gift of Ian Lindsay
In 1948 artist James Houston hitchhiked by small plane into Inukjuak to experience the Arctic and do some sketching. He was intrigued by the carvings and other craft items he saw, and the following year returned to conduct a test purchase for the Canadian Guild of Crafts in Montreal. The works he purchased were offered for sale in a historic exhibition at the Guild store in Montreal in November 1949, an event that marked the beginning of a carving industry that rapidly spread to other Inuit communities. Most of the early carvings created were unsigned. However, this does not detract from their artistic value, as in this WAG piece Circle of Animals. The non-Arctic animals depicted, such as the elephant, may have been inspired by small animal figurines offered as prizes during the 1950s in boxes of Cracker Jack popcorn.