Annie Pootoogook


Annie Pootoogook (1969-2016) was a Canadian artist renowned for her drawings depicting contemporary Inuit life in Northern Canada. A pioneering visual storyteller, her artworks marked an important shift in national consciousness towards contemporary Inuit art and life. 

Pootoogook's grandmother (Pitseolak Ashoona) and mother (Napachie Pootoogook) were both prolific and highly respected Inuit artists. Pitseolak Ashoona was one of the first Inuit artists to experiment with the medium of drawing as Inuit communities transitioned from their previous settlements into permanent communities in Northern Canada, where Pootgootook would be raised. 

In 1997, Annie Pootoogook began drawing and became a third-generation female Inuit artist. Within a decade she received widespread acclaim for her singular artistic vision. Her distinct drawings depict her own experiences of contemporary Inuit life in Kinngait (previously Cape Dorset), Nunavut. Pootoogook's work offers an unfiltered and unique glimpse into a community rarely depicted in contemporary art. 

Challenging notions of traditional Inuit art, Pootoogook colorfully chronicles her life and community at its most banal (cooking, watching tv, waiting in line at an ATM) and emotional (relationships, sexuality, spousal abuse, intergenerational trauma, addiction, death). Her art focuses on showcasing domestic life, female gender roles, hardships faced by Northern communities, and the impact of consumerism and technology affecting Inuit communities. 

Like her mother and grandmother, Pootgootook worked in the Inuit tradition of sulijuk, which means "it is true''. This tradition emphasizes depicting truthful or lived experiences rather than perusing the avant-garde or trends. 

"Mother Breastfeeding" exemplifies Pootoogook's artistic vision and output. In this simplistic drawing, a young couple shares an intimate moment as the mother breastfeeds their baby. Their gentle embrace is anchored in the middle of the page, surrounded by an ordinary domestic scene. 

Interior domestic settings, specifically showcasing food preparation and female domestic life, are among Pootoogook's best-known imagery. The kitchen, which is casual and lived-in, hosts an array of condiments, utensils, and homeware that remain across the counter while their dinner cooks in the oven. Most notably, the contemporary setting includes an Inuit ulu, a traditional multi-purpose knife used by women. 

Drawings like this helped shift the national and international narrative and reception towards Inuit art. Traditionally, Inuit art featured nomadic ways of life in the pristine white Arctic with hunting and fishing as common motifs. Pootoogook transcended cultural expectations and traditions by presenting a deeper and more personal expression rooted in the shifting cultural identity and social forces around her. 

Throughout her career, Pootoogook was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. In 2006 Pootoogook achieved the remarkable milestone of becoming the first Inuit artist to win the Sobey Art Award. The following year her work was shown at the Montreal Biennale and documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany. Her works are highly sought after by collectors and are in the permanent collections of the National Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). 

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"Mother Breastfeeding Child"

Canada, 1994

Colored pencil and mixed media on paper

Signed by the artist, bottom right

Embossed logo on verso

19.5"H 26"W (work)

Very good condition.

Note: The embossed logo on the verso is the Dorset Fine Arts / West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative (WBEC) chop. WBEC is the main studio in Kinngait where Pootoogook's created her works from. The embossed logo (or chop) is used to authenticate all works on paper that are made by the artist members of the WBEC. It is not uncommon for a drawing to not be signed, and in these cases, the WBEC chop is an important indicator that the piece is authentic. See the second last image for the chop. 

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