Canadian Art History 101: Norval Morrisseau
Here is a new series I am calling Canadian Art History 101. I figured that there are many great artists here in Canada that many people might be unaware of and that you might enjoy being introduced to. The articles are going to be short and sweet, with just enough info to let you know why these artists are Canadian greats. We will be traveling throughout this history in no particular order and I will also be introducing many modern practicing Canadian Artists as well. Strap yourself in put on your learning caps and lets get ready to discover some artists we might have missed.
Keepers of Life 1980
Can You Tell Me what Canadian painter was referred to as the “Picasso” of the north by Chagall or which painter Picasso was referring to when he stated, “You never know, do you” when learning that a gift of art he was admiring had come from a Canadian Artist. The work was signed “from one great artist to another”.
The Artist who sent that work was Ojibwa Artist Norval Morrisseau. Born in approximately 1932 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Norval Morrisseau was taught the ancient ways of his people the Anishanaabe tribe by his grandfather who was a Shaman. This influence never left him, even after he was told to give up the ancient ideals by the modern world. He left school at a young age, by grade of four. He then embarked on a sojourn to find his native roots studying the petroglyph , scrolls(sometimes created on wood bark) and bead work of his people.
As he began to create, he began to tell the history of his people. He was told by his elders to not tell the stories of the ancients, “Nevertheless I was determined to do it, for it is my destiny…”. In 1962 he was discovered and given his first professional exhibition at Jack Pollock Gallery in Toronto. Through his art he became recognized leader of the Woodland Style Art and with his knowledge of the ways of the Anishanaabe people he became recognized leader and shaman in Canada and the Untited States . In 1978 he was given the Order of Canada and he was also sole Canadian painter invited to Paris’s Georges Pompidou Centre in 1989 as part of the French celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Just before his death he was awarded the Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award.
It was said that in prosperous times he was to have had thousands of dollars on him at any given moment, his use of alcohol as a fuel for creativity often lead to times where he found himself living on the street and begging for change at others though. It has also been said that Norval never had a creative block and his created works numbering within the thousands on all sorts of forms.
Thunderbird Protecting the Children 1979
On Dec 4th 2007 Norval Morrisseau passed away leaving a legacy unsurpassed by most artists with Quantity of work as well as Quality of work.These innovative works are often designated by iconographic images created through the use of black line and vibrant colors. Although the subjects in his imagery change, these characters are always mythical and somehow beyond our realm, his works speak of humans and their relations on a transcendental level. These works speak of our relations with ourselves, the world in which we live and the forces beyond our control with which we wish to understand. This work transcends nationality or tribe and speaks to people on an individual level .His work is acclaimed and collected worldwide. Morrisseau’s artistic legacy has left a mark on Canadian artists, both Woodland and non woodland alike. His astonishing compositions are finely crafted with brilliant color and unparallel imagery. These work are so powerful they often leave viewers captivated by their sheer mastery and uniqueness. Some have even gone so far to state that his work is so spiritually powerful that it can heal. Noval Morrisseau’s artistic legacy is unparallel and the imagery he created speaks for itself. Morrisseau truly is a Modern Master and if he is not in your collection or on your bookshelf you have missed out.
Click here to learn more about Norval Morrisseau
You may also enjoy An Lesson in Saving from Aboriginal Artist Norval Morrisseau
Here are a couple Homages made in Honor of this great Canadian Artist Of Lonely Ghosts and Just be little Kids