Michael Snow
Clothed Woman (In Memory of my Father) 1963
oil and lucite on canvas
152 x 386.2 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada

Norval Morrisseau retrospective a first for National Gallery of Canada

Ottawa - February 1, 2006

The National Gallery of Canada’s first major solo exhibition of a First Nations artist pays homage to Norval Morrisseau. The Anishnaabe (Ojibwa) painter’s sublimely colourful and deeply spiritual works have inspired three generations of First Nations artists and made him an icon of Canadian art. Norval Morrisseau - Shaman Artist is on display in Ottawa from 3 February to 30 April.

Norval Morrisseau, also called Copper Thunderbird, rose to fame in the 1960s as the originator of the Woodland School. This unique style is now simply called Anishnaabe painting, a term that refers to the artist’s heritage and the archetypal status of his work.

This exhibition features 60 vibrant works, from evocations of ancient symbolic etchings on sacred birchbark scrolls and pictographic renderings of spiritual creatures, to more recent works that are celebrations of pure colour. Morrisseau reveals something of the soul of humanity through colour and his unique “X-ray” style of imaging: Sinewy black “spirit” lines emanate, surround, and link animal and human figures, and skeletal elements and internal organs are visible within their brightly coloured segments.

“Norval Morrisseau is one of a very few artists in the world who can claim to be the creator of a completely new art movement, and the National Gallery of Canada is privileged to be able to present this retrospective,” says Pierre Théberge, Director of the Gallery. “We are extremely grateful to the many public and private lenders from across the country who made this exhibition possible through the loan of their work.”

Norval Morrisseau - Shaman Artist is organized by the National Gallery of Canada, curated by Greg Hill, assistant curator of Contemporary Art, and supported by the Founding Partners’ Circle Endowment Fund of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. The Founding Partners are the patrons who contributed to the creation of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation in 1997 and provided the Foundation with its first endowment fund.

“As a Founding Partner, Bell Canada is delighted that the Endowment Fund continues to support vital projects such as this important exhibition,” says Mirko Bibic, Bell Canada’s Chief, Regulatory Affairs, and member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. "On behalf of the Foundation, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Founding Partners’ Circle patrons for their inspired vision and support of Norval Morrisseau - Shaman Artist.”

Norval Morrisseau, a Member of the Order of Canada, was born in 1932 and raised on the Sand Point Reserve near Lake Nipigon in Northern Ontario. He was acknowledged as Grand Shaman of the Ojibwa in 1986 and, in 1995, the Assembly of First Nations bestowed on him their highest honour, the presentation of an eagle feather. In 1989, Morrisseau, whom the French press dubbed “Picasso of the North,” was the only Canadian artist invited to exhibit at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris as part of the French Revolution Bicentennial celebrations.

In a ceremony during the exhibition’s official opening at the National Gallery tomorrow evening, Morrisseau will become one of the first artists inducted into to the RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada. The RSC (Royal Society of Canada), consists of 1,800 distinguished Canadians selected by their peers for their outstanding contributions to the arts, natural and social sciences and the humanities.

A fully illustrated catalogue, a bilingual Bell audioguide, and a series of lectures and family activities complement this exhibition. After its presentation in Ottawa, Norval Morrisseau - Shaman Artist will travel to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery (3 June - 4 September 2006), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont. (30 September 2006 - 14 January 2007), and the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City (6 October 2007 - 6 January 2008).

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