The Inuit Eskimo people of the Arctic use their keen observations of their wildlife surroundings to help choose which subjects to portray in their artwork. Pretty well all sorts of Arctic wildlife including seals, walruses, birds and whales are represented in Inuit Eskimo art sculptures. The most popular Arctic wildlife subject for both seasoned artists and fans of Inuit Eskimo art seems to be polar bears. For some reason, the polar bear has been chosen as the top animal to represent the Arctic north.
Many Inuit Eskimo soapstone carvers strive to make polar bear sculptures but since this animal is not the easiest subject to carve, usually only experienced individuals can produce decent bears. Novice carvers tend to tackle easier subjects such as seals and whales before moving onto polar bears. This is the main reason why in most cases, a polar bear sculpture will be priced higher than a seal or whale sculpture of similar size (see article on the Prices of Inuit Art).
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Although most Inuit Eskimo art sculptures of polar bears tend to be in walking positions with all four legs on the ground, this is not always the case. Sometimes, polar bears are depicted in sitting, lying or even swimming positions. In some instances, finished polar bears also include some sort of prey such as fish or seals. Complex sculptures of hunting scenes can involve a polar bear plus an Inuit hunter and his husky dogs.
One of the most sought after type of Inuit Eskimo art is the dancing polar bear sculpture. These polar bears are portrayed upright with one of the hind legs raised. This makes the bear appear to be dancing as it is balancing on one leg. On occasions, polar bears have been portrayed balancing on one of the front paws with the head towards the ground and hind legs up in the air. This would depict a diving polar bear. Needless to say, only expert carvers can successfully produce any type of sculpture that is balanced on one leg whether it is the front or hind one. Again, this becomes a factor in the overall price of the Inuit Eskimo art sculpture.
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Some art critics suggest that the dancing polar bear is not true Inuit Eskimo art since the pose is not representative of real nature. Indeed, many Inuit Eskimo communities do not produce dancing polar bears while others do. Regardless, there is consumer demand for dancing bears so there will always be Inuit Eskimo artists who will make them. The dancing polar bears can be seen as an example of the wild imagination that many Inuit Eskimo artists have.
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