This is the fifteenth essay in the series, where TCG Nordica every week introduce a famous Nordic artist’s life and work.
When Aron was born in 1822 in the settlement of Kangeq close to Nuuk, few would have guessed that he would grow up to become the father of modern Greenlandic Art (as opposed to traditional decorative and religious art).
Aron was, like many other people in Greenland at the time, at first engaged in catching seals. It was tough business and when Aron fell ill with tuberculosis around the age of 30, he had to stay in bed and would only be able to return to seal hunting for shorter periods later in his life. Aron, however, was a member of the Moravian mission, and because of this he could both read and write, a skill that he soon put to good use.
In 1848 the Danish geographer Hinrich Rink came to Greenland (a Danish colony at the time) for the first time and he fell in love with Inuit people. He devoted himself to promotion of self-rule and Inuit culture, and among other things Rink in 1858 invited Inuit to write down and illustrate legends until then old orally and send them to him.
Aron responded by writing down several legends and richly illustrating them with comic-book like woodcuts bringing the stories to live. Below are eight woodcuts depicting the legend of the hero Aqissiaq. The seventh and eighth depicts Aqissiaq first racing then wrestling, both to a draw, with another famous inuit, an
The legends and illustrations that Rink received was edited and published in both Greenlandic and Danish, in a book in which Aron’s contribution not surprisingly took the seat of honour. Recognizing Aron’s talent, Rink send him paper and colours, that Aron used draw vivid illustrations of Inuit stories, such as the gory one below where a hunter (standing behind a pillar in the second drawing) upon coming home finds his whole family brutally massacred.
In another watercolour drawing we are shown the story of old Kiviok (furthest left) who returns home after a journey of many years. The first person who greets him is his son, who was an infant when Kiviok left, but now a full-grown hunter, standing on a whale (second from the left).
In 1869 Aron finally succumbed to the tuberculosis. After his death, his drawings and woodcuts were mostly forgotten, but in the 1960 they were rediscovered, and has since then exercised great influence upon Greenlandic art.
Text: Skjold Andreas Arendt