Native America

Tribal art’s influence on modern art

A wooden mask from the Yukon River region of Alaska (ca. 1890–1910). To its right: Francis Picabia’s painting, Monstre (1946). The French artist André Breton once owned the Alaskan wooden mask (ca. 1890–1910) that a gallery paired alongside one of Francis Picabia’s monster paintings. Surrealist artists long admired these Yup’ik masks from the central Alaskan coast, which were made in the hopes of divining bountiful hunts. Breton, Man Ray, and Yves Tanguy all collected the masks beginning in 1934. They saw it as Surrealism from another time and place. African masks are not the only tribal art that had an influence on the modern art of Europe.

The second mask is older and is from the Nunivak Islands in Alaska. It is Eskimo (about1880) with wood, cormorant feathers, sinew, pigment, fur, linseed oil, with later addition of shellac. I wanted you to see in more detail an equally artistic mask from the same region.

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