Ice Bear sets sail in new Monte Dolack painting

Missoula artist's painting inspired by longtime scientist and researcher: "Chuck has his bear"

Art Beat

Monte Dolack captures the imperiled arctic polar bear and its vanishing landscape with his new painting, “Ice Bear.”

One of Montana’s best-known and most beloved artists, Dolack infuses his work with a love of art, history and the natural world. He was encouraged to paint a polar bear about a decade ago by his longtime friend, well-known naturalist, biologist and bear researcher Chuck Jonkel.

“I promised him I would,” writes Dolack. The Missoula artist made a few sketches before turning his attention to other commissions and exhibitions.

“Sadly, Chuck passed away before I could get the painting done. I wanted to complete it in his memory but with my interpretation.”

After those initial sketches he made a small 7 x 5 watercolor study, followed with a 12 x 9 acrylic painting based on the study. “I worked on the large version over the course of three or four years,” he writes. “It was on and off my easel many times.”

The final acrylic-on-canvas painting measures 48 x 36 inches and was completed in August.

“Chuck finally has his bear,” writes Dolack.

Jonkel was both a scientist and committed environmentalist who was deeply engaged with American indigenous tribal members and respected the great significance that bears hold in their stories and myths.

Dolack notes that there are many names for the polar bear including Ursus Maritimus which is Latin for Maritime Bear, due to the animal’s native habitat. The Inuit refer to the bear as nanook (nanuq) and the Siberian Yupik similarly refer to the bear as nanuuk. Other names include ice bear, white bear, sea bear, the old man in the fur cloak and many more.

“I made this painting with the awareness of the immediacy of climate change,” writes Dolack. “The displacement and habitat loss of animals is occurring not only in the Arctic but also globally. I sought to include that concept in my painting of the polar bear, voyaging into the sunset of a changing landscape as the bear’s habitat melts away.”

To learn more about the painting or the artist, visit Dolack’s online gallery.