Inuit art can be best defined as a ritual art. People of the Arctic (Eskimo people) follow it.
The artworks of Inuit art can be seen everywhere globally: many wealthy and influential people spend their fortune collecting Inuit works of art. The art developed as a trend in 1948 when a youthful Canadian artist, James A. Houston, traveled to the north of his country. He made a few sketches of Inuits and gave them to the people who reacted by giving him their artworks – little carvings they had made themselves. This first meeting with the people of Arctic artworks was soon to be tailgated by many others. Traders, missionaries, and whales started traveling to the north. The significance of the carvings and the other artworks was soon recognized, and Inuit people began making their living by trading their art with valuable goods for daily usage. Modeled objects such as carved walrus tusks and small figures became very popular in Canada and later on in other places of the globe.
What is the primary subject of Inuit art, and what makes it so appealing to collectors?
Perhaps it is a robust relationship with nature. Inuit art represents the natural environment and the raw way of life of the Eskimo people. It is also a symbol of their beliefs and tradition and their religious attitude. Subject matter in their artworks is the polar nature, the land, and the sea, the animals of the north, the plants, the insects, and mammals, which are indigenous to the north. Custom has played an essential role in the Eskimo people’s evolution, so it is covered in the overall pattern their art suggests.
The roots of the Eskimo people are one of the reasons for Inuit art to arise. The early Eskimo people passed through Russia and built their new home in Alaska. The climate there was so tricky that Eskimos required all their might to survive. Arctic Canada was an isolated territory, so enduring there demanded a comprehensive effort. Thus, their faiths in the supernatural, in northern spirits and animals, appeared. Their folklore served a supporting role for survival. The ancients represented their worries and hopes by making small amulets and decorating implements. The Inuit art is very sophisticated and attention is paid to little details: I have seen an ancient polar bear engraved on a piece of ivory smaller than a thumbnail. Inuit acquired sharp senses so that they could survive in the wilderness.
To stay alive in the rough conditions, an Eskimo needed to hunt even a polar bear – developing a technique of copying animal sounds to catch the animal and sense an imminent danger faster than a raven.
Animals became symbols of courage and strength; that’s why they are carved and pictured in Inuit artworks. Perhaps culture and beliefs make Inuit art so famous among Western civilization: the artworks were created with a vivid sense of the encompassing world and concerning nature.