1932 - 2007
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Norval Morrisseau (Copper Thunderbird) was born in 1932. He was the first Eastern Woodlands artist to translate his culture (that of the Anishnaabe or Ojibway people) visually, through acrylic paintings, prints and drawings accessible to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. He invented the pictographic style, now used by three generations of Aboriginal artists. His art draws upon Midewiwin birchbark scrolls, rock paintings and Anishnaabe decorative arts.
In the 1970s, Morrisseau studied holistic Eckankar spirituality. Through his travels in Northern Ontario, and through the printmaking Triple-K Cooperative in Red Lake, he has influenced many First Nations artists, including Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, Joshim Kakegamic, Roy Thomas, Saul Williams, and Blake Debassige.
Morrisseau developed his art from 1959, while working in mining. Isolated from major urban centres, he became a full-time artist in the early 1960s. Between 1963 and 1966, Morrisseau enlarged the scale of his works and developed his pictographic style. Combining rich colours, he represents inner realities with strong flowing lines, often indicating spiritual forces. His art expresses his spiritual explorations and aspects of Anishnaabe culture, as well as his personal development. It reflects tensions between Aboriginal cultures and Christianity, shamanism, the interconnection between all living things and the importance of the family.
Morrisseau was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, and was elected to the Order of Canada. His published works include ‘Legends of My People’ and ‘The Great Ojibway’ (ed. Selwyn Dewdney, Toronto 1965).