Inuit: Glimpses of an Arctic Past
Authors: David Morrison and Georges-Hébert Germain
Illustrations: Frédéric Back
Published by Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, 1995, 159 pages
A non-fiction book built around a fictional character, it presents in eight chapters in the daily life of the Inuit. The text by David Morrison is enhanced by some thirty illustrations by Frédéric Back and numerous early photographs taken by New Zealand anthropologist Diamond Jenness between 1913 and 1916. From building an igloo to making clothing and hunting implements, we see the ingenuity and courage of 23 Inuit peoples as they confront the harsh climate of the far North. We also glimpse the private world of their values, spirituality and communal way of life.
Frédéric Back's son Francis is an illustrator who specializes in historical reconstructions and storyboards for film. Occasionally, a tight deadline means he turns to his father for help, which is what happened on Inuit: Glimpses of an Arctic Past. As he began working on the illustrations for the scenes from daily life, different hunting techniques, and the tools and clothing of the various groups, Frédéric Back fell in love with the topic and used the opportunity to find out more about it. With his usual concern for historical accuracy and realism, he based his drawings on the many archival documents his son had collected.
Frédéric Back employed the same technique here as he had in his animated films, using pastel on paper for the backgrounds, with overlays of frosted cels on which he drew the details in coloured pencil and occasionally gouache. The black and white illustrations are done with black grease pencil.