(Ikirisaq, Nunavut, 1927 – Cape Dorset, Nunavut, 2013)
The Enchanted Owl
Colour stonecut on laid paper
55.8 x 65.7 cm
Gift of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1989
National Gallery of Canada, 36504
© West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Ltd. Photo: National Gallery of Canada
The artist Kenojuak Ashevak created The Enchanted Owl in 1960, at a time when Inuit art was beginning to generate real excitement in Canada. The stonecut print represents a stylized owl with a spotted body and long fanning feathers. One of the first prints produced in the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative workshop, it has been issued in a wide variety of colours. Reproduced in numerous publications, including on the front page of The Montreal Star in 1962, The Enchanted Owl soon became an icon of Inuit art and, more broadly, a symbol of Canada.
In the late 1950s, Kenojuak Ashevak joined other Inuit artists to work with the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative in Cape Dorset. In 1966, she settled in the village, leaving behind the traditional nomadic life on Baffin Island. Her works often represent animals, in particular birds, whose forms diverge from reality to follow her imagination. In 1963, Ashevak’s life and art became the subject of the National Film Board of Canada documentary Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak. Later, she worked with Johnniebo Ashevak, her husband, to create a mural for the Canadian Pavilion at the 1970 World’s Fair, in Osaka, Japan.
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Kenojuak Ashevak is one of the world’s best-known Inuit artists. Her works have appeared in numerous exhibitions and publications and on stamps issued by Canada Post Corporation. In 1970, ten years after it was created, The Enchanted Owl was reproduced on a six-cent stamp commemorating the centennial of the Northwest Territories. Two other works by the artist, Return of the Sun (1961) and The Owl (1969), are featured on Canadian stamps issued in 1980 and 1993, respectively. Owl’s Bouquet (date unknown) appears on the $10 banknote marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.