ALEX JANVIER: A Leading Canadian First Nations Artist

Alex Janvier 1935 -

Alex Janvier was born in 1935 on the Cold Lake First Nations of  Dene Suline and Salteaux  ancestry and was raised and educated within his family until the age of eight, at which time he was enrolled in the Blue Quills Indian Residential School near St. Paul, Alberta.

This was both a traumatic event, as it was to most young native children at a time when they were living in their small family circles, still practicing the old traditional lifestyle – but it also gave him an opportunity to have his recognized artistic talent brought to the fore and trained.

He was one of the very few young native artists of his time to have an opportunity to attend a formal art programme, and graduated with honours from a Fine Arts Diploma course at the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1960. He taught art in Northern Alberta under the auspices of the University of Alberta Extension Department for a two year period following his graduation, and since 1971 has worked full time as an artist, also being involved in community teaching of art with regular sessions at the Banff School of Fine Arts and more locally within the native community.

He became involved with the Blue Quills First Nations College from the time of its takeover by a First Nations group in 1971.

In 1966 the Canada Department of Indian and Northern Affairs commissioned him to produce a series of 80 paintings. At about the same time, Janvier was instrumental in bringing together a group of Firat Nations artists to participate at the Indians of Canada Pavilion at Expo ’67 – this group included Bill Reid, Norval Morrisseau and Carl Ray.

In addition, at this time he was one of the founders of  the “Canadian Indian Group of Seven”

Janvier’s influences  include European as well as Native Canadian artists, and he adopted an abstract style as his vehicle for symbolic use of colour to express uniquely native themes of struggle, conflict and empowerment.

One of Janvier’s  early commissions is a large mural painted in 1974 for the then new Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife, and the hotel has treasured and displayed the mural since then. It is now in a conference room bearing Janvier’s name and the mural was restored, retouched and added to by him in the Summer of 2008.

detail from Morning Star

The mural in Yellowknife  is understandably overshadowed by a massive mural created by Janvier with the assistance of his son Dean during the Summer of 1993. Entitled Morning Star, the painting rises through the full height of the 7 storey dome in the Ottawa Museum of Civilization – this amazing painting covers 4500 square feet and is a sweeping depiction of Aboriginal History.

Read the complete interpretation of the painting at the link above.

Like so mamy other artists, Alex Janvier is still breaking new ground in his old age and living in his Cold Lake First Nations community. The family established an art gallery in Cold Lake in 2003 and a visit to his official website will provide a treat for the eyes, and will also fill you in on all the awards and recognition this prolific artist has garnered over the years.

From time to time, Redkettle has been fortunate to acquire a work by Alex Janvier for his inventory – if you have one you want to part with, please get in touch: Mich is always interested in seeing any art you may have on offer.

Meanwhile, please browse among Redkettle’s current stock either here on the blog, or over at the website

Until next week – Mich and Janet on the West and the East Coastof Canada!!


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