Shaman by Norval Morrisseau

Acrylic on Canvas
24 × 20 inches
61 × 50.8 cm
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About the Work

This half length, profile portrait of a wide eyed shaman is depicted in black acrylic outline and solid vivid colours. The eye of the shaman is ringed in orange and the body articulated in sky blue with concentric areas of pink, red and turquoise. Concentric circles in yellow, green pink, orange and mauve rise from his arms. Morrisseau was known for his pictographic style with which he interpreted the stories and culture of his people, the Anishinaabe. At age six, Morrisseau was sent to a Catholic residential school where Indigenous culture and language were repressed. After two years, he returned home and began to learn about his people from his shaman grandfather and to study and eventually, to paint. Inspired by the petroglyphs - images of animals, humans and symbols incised on rocks by early Indigenous people in Ontario - Morrisseau created a pictographic style of flattened shapes, dark outlines and the use of profile in his paintings. In the 1960s, Morrisseau began to exhibit in Toronto with dealer Jack Pollock. A documentary film soon followed and commercial success. Morrisseau was the inspiration for the Woodland School, a group of Indigenous artists who adopted and expanded the artist's style. In 1978, he was appointed Member, Order of Canada, and was elected Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. His work is in the collections of many Canadian museums including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the McMichael Canadian Collection and the Royal Ontario Museum.

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