Norval Morrisseau was born in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) May 14, 1932. He died in Toronto on December 4, 2007.“My art speaks and will continue to speak, transcending barriers of nationality, of language and of other forces that may be divisive, fortifying the greatness of the spirit that has always been the foundation of the Ojibwa people.” Norval Morrisseau – Travels to the House of Invention
Norval Morrisseau (Copper Thunderbird) was a Grand Shamon of the Ojibwa people. Founder of the Woodland School of art, heralded as the Picasso of the North, Morrisseau as a single force, brought his message to all through his art.Honoured with the Order of Canada and Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation as well as Holder of the Eagle Feather (the highest honour awarded by the Assembly of First Nations), Morrisseau has forever changed the face of art.
One of seven children, Morrisseau was raised by his maternal grandparents. He left school after the fourth grade and developed his art from 1959 while working in mining and in the early 1960s became a full-time artist. From 1963-66, Morrisseau enlarged the scale of his works and developed his pictographic style, now used by three generations of Aboriginal artists. Combining rich colours, he represents inner realities with strong flowing lines, often indicating spiritual forces. It reflects tensions between Aboriginal cultures and Christianity, shamanism, the interconnection between all living things and the importance of the family. In 1966 Morrisseau, with Carl Ray, created a mural for the Indians of Canada Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal.
Norval Morrisseau is one of the most original and important artists, native or otherwise that Canada has produced. Norval was the first to paint the ancient myths and legends of the eastern woodlands, stories previously passed down by the oral tradition. He spent his youth in remote isolation in northern Ontario, near Thunder Bay, where his artistic style developed without the usual influences of other artist's imagery. As the soul originator of his "Woodland" style he has become an inspiration to three generations of artists.
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