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Norval Morrisseau
Norval Morrisseau

Lieu d’exposition
/ Exhibition place

Centre de commerce mondial de Montréal Rez-de-chaussée / Ground Floor, œuvre / artwork n°3
drawing | painting | print


Of Anishnaabe origin, Norval Morrisseau (1932-2007) grew up with his grandparents. At a very young age, he began to paint on anything he could find. At the age of 19, he was given a powerful spiritual name by a woman doctor in order to be saved from death.Adopting the name Cooper Thunderbird, he embraced the role of an artist-shaman, signing his works in Cree syllabics. In 1962, Jack Pollock, greatly influenced by his work, organized his first exhibitions in Toronto. He became the first Indigenous artist to exhibit in a contemporary art gallery. For Expo 67, he created a fresco at the Indian Pavilion of Canada denouncing the social and political situation of the First Nations. In 1989, he was the only Canadian painter invited to the Magiciens de la Terre (Magicians of the Earth) exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. In 2006, he became the first Indigenous artist to be honored by the National Gallery of Canada with a retrospective exhibition entitled Norval Morrisseau, Shaman Artist. He passed away the following year due to a heart attack.

Approach and works on display

Sans titre

Norval Morrisseau, also known as the “Picasso of the North”, was at the origin of the Woodland artistic movement, also known as Anishnaabe painting. This movement still influences most Indigenous painters today. It is characterized by black outlines, lines between elements and the use of bright colors. The artist’s works unveil the invisible connections between beings and worlds where everything is interconnected. Through them, he shares certain aspects of his culture and spirituality. He paints his dreams interpreted as messages from the other world, the Anishnaabe cosmology derived from his grandfather’s legends and his shamanic visions. The works on display were acquired in 1988, and likely produced in the same year. They are part of the collection of the Musée amérindien de Mashteuiatsh. Despite his exceptional talent, Norval Morrisseau lived in poverty. He often used his paintings in barter for various objects.


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