The Man Who Makes Heads with His Hands: The Art and Life of Harold Pfeiffer, Sculptor


178 pages
Contains Photos, Maps
ISBN 1-896182-70-4
DDC 730'.92




Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian studies at
Concordia University, and the author of Kurlek, Margaret Laurence: The
Long Journey Home, and As Though Life Mattered: Leo Kennedy’s Story.


This book’s intriguing title comes from a nickname bestowed on the
late Harold Pfeiffer by Inuit friends: Agaminut Niakolioti, the man who
makes heads with his hands. Pfeiffer made it his mission to make bronze
portraits of Native people from Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia
before modern civilization could erase the unique cultures he saw etched
in their faces.

Throughout his long and adventurous life, Pfeiffer’s art remained his
passion. The sculptor, who struggled to earn a living while devoting
much of his time to his art, held to his preferred style of classic
realism in the face of the Western world’s decided preference for
abstract art. The breakthrough in his career came in 1968, when the
Riveredge Foundation of Calgary began to buy many of his busts for the
Glenbow Museum.

Much of the text of this handsome and well-organized book consists of
Pfeiffer’s memories, as told to Stevens. These reminiscences, which
function as a partial autobiography, capture the sculptor’s keen sense
of humor and his gift for dialect and mimicry. The book is effectively
illustrated with black-and-white photographs of Pfeiffer’s busts.

The Man Who Makes Heads with his Hands is a fitting and accomplished
tribute to the life and work of this important Canadian sculptor.


Stevens, John A., and Harold Pfeiffer., “The Man Who Makes Heads with His Hands: The Art and Life of Harold Pfeiffer, Sculptor,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 7, 2023,