Norval Morrisseau was born on the Sand Point Indian Reserve near Thunder Bay in Ontario in 1932, and learned of the legends and sacred rituals of his Ojibwa heritage from his shaman grandfather. To recover his native identity, which was denied in residential schooling, he embarked on a study of ancient rock paintings in northern Ontario, 17th-century Ojibwa Midewiwin shaman’ scrolls and 19th-century Ojibwa beadwork, distinguished by its bright colour and strong linear composition.
Following the success of his first solo exhibition in 1962, Morrisseau was acclaimed the leader of the Anishnabe, or Woodland School, and his career was launched. In 1979, he stated: “My art speaks and will continue to speak, transcending barriers of nationality, of language and of other forces that may be divise, fortifying the greatness of the spirit that has always been the foundation of the Great Ojibwa”. He died in Toronto in 2007.
Morrisseau fused the composition frequently used in European painting with a style inspired by his Ojibwa roots. In a manner characteristic of the period between 1966 and 1975, Morrisseau explores the native and Christian dichotomies, which reflects his circumstance of being caught between two cultures and belief systems.
He revitalizes native artistic traditions through a dynamic and innovative approach to colour and design, bridging the native past with the present.
Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art form its beginnings to 2000, Firefly book, 2000