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Arthur Shilling was born April 19, 1941, on the Rama Reserve
near Orillia, Ontario, into a family of 13 children. He
moved to Toronto
in his late teens, and although he received a scholarship to attend art school,
he went to few classes, preferring to find his own way. That way meant
rejecting traditional Native Indian art forms, the illustration of legends and
the use of animal symbolism, while at the same time exploring the Native
experience in the life around him, particularly in the faces of his people. He
developed a distinctive expressionist style using bold strokes of colour to set
off the quiet questioning or proud defiance in the faces of his subjects.
His paintings are in the permanent collections of The McMichael Canadian Collection,
The National Museum of Civilization, The Royal Ontario Museum and The Canadian
Embassy Collection in Washington,
D.C. He was the subject of the
National Film Board’s prize-winning documentary called The Beauty of My People:
The Life, Work and Times of Arthur Shilling.
Fiercely independent and impatient of attempts to classify him, he remained