Peter and His Friends by Norval Morrisseau Matted
Cultural Background: Ojibway, Lake Superior, Ontario
Norval Morrisseau is a legend in his own time. An Ojibway Indian living like a nomad on the northwest shores of Lake Superior, Morrisseau started to paint in 1959, after he received a “vision” telling him to do so. He is the first Indian to break the tribal rules of setting down Indian legends in picture form for the white man to see and the first Indian to actually draw these legends and design representative shapes to illustrate his folklore.
At first he painted on birch bark because that was all he had. He felt he was chosen to set down the great heritage of the Ojibway – to pass on, in some form of documentation, the traditions and life-force of his tribe before it finally disappeared forever. In 1960 he was discovered by Jack Pollock, a Toronto art dealer, who brought 42 Morrisseau paintings back to Toronto and sold them all within 24 hours. Today a Morrisseau painting commands up to $15,000 and his original prints are eagerly collected.
Morrisseau was the founder of an art “movement” popularly called Woodland Indian Art. He is to the young Ojibway painters and printmakers of Northern Ontarion what Tom Thomson was to the Group of Seven – an artist who follows his own vision, and whom others follow. His works have been widely acquired for public and private collections in several countries.