Stretching the Pelt

Pure West Art & Artifact Auction
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Allen Sapp 1928-2015

Stretching the Pelt

16x12” acrylic

Estimate - $1,500-$2,500

Born on the Red Pheasant reserve in Saskatchewan, Allen Sapp, or Kiskayetum (He Perceives It), became known for his authentic records of the Cree people and their activities. Often bedridden with illness, Sapp was an infrequent school attendee and never learned to read or write. After his mother died, he was raised by his maternal grandmother, who encouraged his love of drawing and taught him the ways of the Cree people.

For the most part Sapp was a self-taught artist. He is said to have worked instinctively with a photographic memory; painting the pictures he saw in his mind. His paintings tell a personal story, but many appreciate them for their ability to go beyond that and represent a generation of Cree people and other prairie inhabitants of the same era.

In 1969, he was awarded a Canada Council Arts Bursary. He was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1987 in recognition of his achievements in the visual arts. In 1981, the book A Cree Life: The Art of Allen Sapp was released. Sapp was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, in recognition of both his work as a painter and the part he played in telling the story of the Cree nation. In 2003, he received the Governor General’s Award for the illustrations he did for the children’s book The Song Within My Heart, a story about a young Cree boy based on Sapp’s memories.

The paintings of Sapp reveal what a reservation meant to those for whom it was home. Like Remington and Russell in the United States before him, Sapp was a historical chronicler of a life and society that has passed into history, recorded with the sensitivity of one who was part of it. Sapp’s paintings masterfully depict First Nations culture, the simple elegance of rural life and the beauty of Saskatchewan. With honesty, without embellishment, and with a deep sense of mood, the artist depicted a bleak environment in a harsh climate.