Tag Archives: Indian Art

Norval Morrisseau – Biography

Otters - Norval MorrisseauBorn 1931 on Sandy Lake Reserve in northwestern Ontario, Norval Morrisseau almost died of illness as a small boy. His mother took him to a Medicine Woman who gave him the powerful Ojibway name Copper Thunderbird to give him strength. Many elders in the tribe were outraged that such a young man was given such a powerful name. He beat the fever and grew up to become a World Class painter. He now signs all his work using his native name Copper Thunderbird using Cree syllabics taught to him by his Cree wife. Norval Morrisseau is an Ojibway Shaman who paints the images that come to him in dreams. He was introduced to Toronto art gallery owner Jack Pollock while while Pollock was traveling through Northern Ontario in 1962. Pollock took him to Toronto where Morrisseau’s first one man show sold out on the first day. His work now hangs in major galleries around the world. He is a world class artist and is considered the founder of a unique style of native art.

Morrisseau was dubbed the “Picasso Of The North” of Native Art by the French Press in 1969 and is considered one of the most innovative artists of the Century. Unlike Picasso, Norval Morrisseau developed a unique style of art back in the bush with no connection to European style and influence. He is considered The Founder of The Woodlands School of Art which has also been called Legend Art or Medicine Art as the images are agents for healing or reflect many of the secret legends known only within the Ojibway and Cree Tribes. With his apprentice and friend, fellow artist Carl Ray (a Cree artist from Sandy Lake) they were the pioneers of this fresh style of art. Both were commissioned by the Canadian government to paint the large mural for The Natives of Canada Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal.

Norval Morrisseau was awarded The prestigious Order Of Canada Medal in 1978 by the Governor General of Canada for his contribution to Canadian Art. He was the only Canadian artist invited by France to contribute and show his work at their Bicentennial Celebration in 1989. While in Europe he toured the galleries to see the works of Master artists only to think their work was too dark and somber . He returned to paint in even more vibrant colours and abstract shapes.

He almost died in a hotel fire in 1972 in Vancouver but recovered from the burns and healed enough to paint again. He adopted Christianity around that time and a number of his paintings in the ’70’s reflected this belief in the Lord as the Savior. In time the Lord and Native Shaman shared the same place and power. Morrisseau believes in astral travel and has demonstrated a belief in Eckanar since.

Norval Morrisseau is considered the Grandfather of the Woodlands Style and the most popular of what has been dubbed “Canada’s Native Group of Seven.” He is now a world class artist.

Norval Morrisseau is a self professed Ojibway Shaman who paints the visions that come to him in dreams. While he is considered the Founder and Cornerstone of the Woodlands School of Art, also called Legend or Medicine Painting, other members of this “Native Group Of Seven” have their work on Redkettle site such as Carl Ray and Joshim Kakegamic. Their influence continues to affect the art being done by young native artists today considered to be “Woodlands- the next generation”.

About Art Book and 5 Litho Set

Meuthen Publishing released only 350 of this set in 1979 and they sold out immediately. Morrisseau was then at the top of his form and had been awarded the prestigious Order of Canada Medal from the Governor General Ed Shreyer the year before. Redkettle’s boxed set is pristine condition and is #48/350 and comes with provenance. The Sales Manager then of Muthuen Books has provided Redkettle with a signed letter stating he purchased the set for himself the day it was released in ’79 and all has remained secure in the box since. Wax paper is still sealed tightly around the leather bound book inside the box. The art book and bio The Art of Norval Morrisseau written by C.B.C. journalist Lister Sinclair and Morrisseau founder and manager, Toronto gallery owner Jackson Pollock. This set has never been opened except to take these photos for the site. The five lithos are individually signed and numbered by the artist. The five signed Morrisseau prints are titled A- The Dawn, B-Shaman Conjuring Speech, C-Compostion With Loons, D- Young Gulls Watching, E- Shaman and Apprentice. Redkettle has originals by Norval’s apprentice Carl Ray on the site as well as art by Morrisseau’s artist brother in law, the now late Joshim Kakegamic also from the Sandy Lake Reserve in northern Ontario.