A Look Back: Nanooq’s Origin

Nanooq Inuit Art has its origin with the Westdale Gallery, one of Canada’s earliest Inuit art commercial galleries. Westdale Gallery was founded in 1959 by Julius Lebow, a Paris trained artist and art teacher. Julius curated, collected and promoted Inuit art along with many other local contemporary artists and their works. One of his many achievements was teaching art at the Mountain Sanatorium in Hamilton, Ontario in the late 1950s.

The sanatorium was home to many Inuit patients whom suffered from tuberculosis. Julius and others collaborated bring all the necessary material and equipment to the sanatorium so that the Inuit patients could learn to carve. In a few short years, the patients’ work became quite prolific and resulted in a significant collection, which was recently donated to the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 2017 by Hamilton Health Sciences.

In the 2008 winter edition of Inuit Art Quarterly (pages 11-16), author Susan Gustavison’s article titled “Inuit Artists and the Tuberculosis Patients in Hamilton”, tells the story of how the Inuit patients with tuberculosis, their art and the people of Hamilton came together at the Mountain Sanatorium.

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