Artwork by Norval Morrisseau,  Thunderbird

Norval Morrisseau

mixed media on birchbark
faded signature (once evident in the lower right corner)
15.5 x 12.5 ins ( 39.4 x 31.8 cms ) ( sight )

Sold for $5,290.00
Sale date: November 25th 2015

Acquired directly from the artist, 1965
Private Collection, Winnipeg
The consignor acquired this artwork (as well as the next lot, “Water Beetle”) as a third year medical student working at the hospital in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.  Involved in the tuberculosis x-ray survey of people living in Northern Ontario, he travelled to many first nation communities in the area, x-raying individuals with a portable machine.

It was during such a visit to Sandy Lake in the summer of 1965 that he met Norval Morrisseau.  Following a spirited Scrabble game between Morrisseau, author Sheila Burnford and artist Susan Ross, which the consignor witnessed, the group went to Morrisseau’s studio.  After inquiring as to whether the artist might have artwork which a “poor medical student could afford”, Morrisseau presented two works on birchbark.

“Thunderbird" was not signed and the consignor requested that Morrisseau add his signature.  Morrisseau did so, using a watercolour pen to sign the artwork vertically in the lower right corner.  This signature has faded over time.

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Norval Morrisseau
(1931 - 2007) RCA, Order of Canada

Born in 1931 at Sandy Point Reserve, Ontario, Morrisseau was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts since 1970. Norval Morrisseau was the celebrated founder of the Woodland School, which revitalized Anishnabe iconography, traditionally incised on rocks and Midewiwin birchbark scrolls. A self-taught painter, printmaker, and illustrator, Morrisseau created an innovative vocabulary which was initially criticized in the Native community for its disclosure of traditional spiritual knowledge. His colourful, figurative images delineated with heavy black form lines and x-ray articulations, were characteristically signed with the syllabic spelling of Copper Thunderbird, the name Morrisseau’s grandfather gave him. Morrisseau completed many commissions during his career including the mural for the Indians of Canada Pavilion at Expo 67. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1978 and, in 1980, received honourary doctorates from both McGill and McMaster universities. In 1995 Morrisseau was honoured by the Assembly of First Nations.