Richard Harrington: Arctic Photographer

The Rooms Provincial Gallery, St. John's, NL • April-August 2011

Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, ON • March 29-June 16, 2013


One of Canada’s most respected photographer, Richard Harrington (1911–2005) immigrated to Canada from Germany in the mid-1920s. His career led him to travels in over 100 countries, and over 2400 of his photographic stories were published in numerous magazines and 24 books.In 1947, Harrington made a trip to Inukjuak in the eastern Arctic, and this stirred his desire to see more of the far north. Over the next decade, he made five additional trips to the north. Harrington’s Arctic photographs now form an historical record of a vanishing way of life, as the Inuit people were soon to abandon their nomadic lifestyle to settle permanently into various camps.

A selection of photographs from Harrington’s many trips to the far North are featured in this exhibition. Complementing these are a number of sculptures from the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s impressive Inuit art collection that reference Harrington’s last trip to the Canadian High Artic in 1959. At this time, he visited the Arctic Quebec settlement of Povungnituk (now Puvirnituq) to document the carving techniques of carvers, particularly that of Charlie Sivuarapik, whose work had become well-known in the late 1950s. Sivuarapik was the subject of a Beaver magazine article in 1956, and by 1959 his meticulously-detailed carvings had brought him the distinction of being elected to the Sculptors Society of Canada. Harrington’s photographs of the carver were used in an article for Canadian Geographic Journal in 1960. The sculpture of an Inuit Hunter with Caribou and Dog shown in several of Harrington’s photographs is now in the WAG Inuit collection and on display in this exhibition.

The positioning of contemporaneous photography by a non-Inuit artist and carvings by an Inuit artist provides an interesting context for visitors to view the works. The work of each artist is very strong, allowing for appreciation on purely aesthetic terms. However, when viewed together, they create a powerful dialogue about a time and place in the not too distant past which has profoundly changed in the last 50 years.

Media reviews

“In 1950, the caribou did not come to the N.W.T. Richard Harrington did. His photos of famine in the Arctic wrenched hearts then and do now, with a show in Winnipeg...[Harrington's] Arctic work was praised by no less a photographic luminary than Henri Cartier-Bresson."
- Bob Weber, The Canadian Press (Dec 5, 2009)

“This small, thoughtful show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery features the work of renowned Canadian photojournalist Richard Harrington. Highlighting the formal qualities of Harrington's meticulously composed black-and-white photographs, the exhibition also emphasizes his faithful documentation of the Inuit people's vanishing nomadic life in the 1950s.Darlene Coward Wight, the WAG's Inuit art curator, and Mary Reid, curator of contemporary art and photography, worked together on the show. The pairing is significant. Giving equal weight to the photographer and his subjects, the exhibition becomes a nuanced investigation of the ways photographs work: it's about what photos can tell us, and what they leave out."
- Alison Gilmour, Winnipeg Free Press (Dec 3, 2009)

"Canadian photographer Richard Harrington took epic journeys by dogsled between 1948 and 1953, bringing back images of the traditional Inuit way of life that astonished the world. Harrington captured life on the land in the final years before the Inuit were forever changed by contact with the South. "He was the window on this culture for so many people," says Winnipeg Art Gallery director Stephen Borys. "These (photographs) are historical documents, as well as amazing portraits."
- Alison Mayes, Winnipeg Free Press (Nov, 26, 2009)

Exhibition Details

Artists: Richard Harrington, Canadian, (1911- 2005); Charlie Sivuarapik, Canadian (Puvirnituq), (1911-1968)

Curators: Mary Reid, Curator, Contemporary Art & Photography; Darlene Coward Wight, Curator, Inuit Art

Exhibition Includes:

• 23 framed black and white photographs, c. 1949 - 1959 by Richard Harrington. All photographs are framed in dark grey brushed metal frames 36" x 36"
• 14 stone sculptures by Charlie Sivuarapik, c. 1954 -1968,
• supporting materials: Bilingual (English and French) introductory panel on Richard Harrington, 1 didactic panel on Charlie Sivuarapik, 37 labels with extended text for select works. All text provided by electronic files.
• packing and crating

Requirements of host institution:
• approximately 144 running feet, 1700 sq feet
• display material: 8 vitrines with security-locked plexiglass tops (*larger pedestals can be used)

  • 2 – 38” x 18” x 20”
  • 2 – 38” x 20” x 20”
  • 3 – 38” x 20” x 24”
  • 1 – 38” x 24” x 24”

Environment and security requirements:

• relative humidity: 40% fluctuations less than + - 2% RH in 24 hours
• temperature: 20°C with fluctuations not to exceed 1°C in 24 hours
• light levels 50 lux for photographs; 150 lux for sculptures
• security: Constant surveillance when open to the public; security alarm system in use when closed to the public

click here for illustrated list of works

Host venue length: 12 weeks
Tour Schedule: Fall 2010 to Winter2013 

For more information contact:

Helen Delacrataz, Chief Curator
Winnipeg Art Gallery







Richard Harrington, Coppermine, NWT, 1949.

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