Nfld. & Labrador

The Rooms receives historic donation of Inuit art from printmaker William Ritchie

It's one of the largest and most significant donations The Rooms has ever received: nearly 400 prints by dozens of Inuit artists. For 30 years, artist and master printmaker William Ritchie kept a copy of every print he worked on at the historic Kinngait Studios. Now he's gifting the whole collection to The Rooms.

For 30 years, Ritchie kept a copy of every print he worked on at Kinngait Studios in Nunavut

Printmaker William Ritchie makes historic donation of Inuit art

6 months ago
Duration 4:17
For thirty years, artist and master printmaker William Ritchie kept a copy of every print he worked on at the historic Kinngait Studios in Nunavut. The result is a huge, and hugely significant, collection of nearly four hundred prints by dozens of artists. Now he's gifting all of them to the provincial art gallery in his home province of Newfoundland & Labrador.

It's one of the largest and most significant donations The Rooms has ever received: nearly 400 prints by dozens of Inuit artists, capturing a unique and vital period in Canadian art history. 

The collection is being handed over to The Rooms by artist and master printmaker William Ritchie. Ritchie is a celebrated visual artist in his own right, but these works are drawn from his 30-year career as a printmaker at the historic Kinngait Studios in Kinngait, Nunavut, formerly known as Cape Dorset.

There, Ritchie worked with Inuit artists who would become major names in the art world, including Annie Pootoogook, Tim Pitsouliak, Pudlo Pudlat and Kenojuak Ashevak. But while their prints were flying off the walls at Toronto art galleries, Ritchie got to keep a copy of every print he worked on. 

William Ritchie explains the process of creating the lithographic print My New Accordion by artist Napachie Pootoogook. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

The result is a massive trove that captures a time when Inuit art was moving away from traditional representations of northern life, and beginning to reflect modern social realities and outside influences. As studio manager and master printmaker, Ritchie encouraged this new generation of Inuit artists to follow their creative vision.

"I always said to people, draw what you know," said Ritchie. "Do what you know, do what's in your life, do what's in your mind, do what you're thinking about. There's no rules anymore."

To hear Ritchie's story and view this incredible collection, watch the video above.

And join us Thursday at 7 p.m. NT on the CBC N.L. Facebook page for a live conversation from The Rooms. We're diving into the first exhibit drawn from William Ritchie's collection, called Helping Hands: 30 Years at Kinngait Studios. The exhibition is curated by Nakasuq Alariaq, an Inuk-Finnish graduate student, educator, curator and writer from Kinngait. Alariaq will join Mireille Eagan, curator of contemporary art at The Rooms, for a special look at the featured artworks and to answer questions from our audience.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zach Goudie is a journalist and video producer with CBC in St. John's.

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