Norval Morrisseau: The Thunderous Voice of Indigenous Art

Norval Morrisseau, also known as Copper Thunderbird, is one of the most famous indigenous artists in Canada. He is considered the founder of the Woodland School of Art, a style characterized by its bold lines, bright colors, and depictions of legends and stories from First Nations culture. Morrisseau’s paintings are known for their powerful imagery, cultural significance, and vibrant energy.

In this blog post, we will delve deep into the life and works of Norval Morrisseau. We’ll explore his upbringing, artistic influences, style, and legacy. We’ll also answer some common questions about his art and provide tips on how to appreciate and value his paintings.

Who was Norval Morrisseau?

Norval Morrisseau was born on March 14, 1932, in Sand Point Reserve, Ontario, on the eastern shore of Lake Nipigon, which is located north of Thunder Bay. Morrisseau’s parents taught him traditional Anishinaabe teachings and legends, which later became the inspiration for much of his artwork. He was also influenced by the works of artist and shaman, Moses Kakekapetum, a fellow member of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek community.

Morrisseau was a member of the Anishinaabe people and the first Indigenous artist to break onto the Canadian art scene in the 1960s. His work contributed to the recognition and promotion of Indigenous art worldwide. Morrisseau’s art gained critical acclaim during the 1960s, and his paintings were displayed in galleries across Canada, the United States, and Europe.

What is Norval Morrisseau Known for?

Norval Morrisseau is most famous for being considered the founder of the Woodland School of Art. This style is characterized by the use of bright colors, thick black outlines, and large simplified shapes. The Woodland School is recognized as its own art movement in Canada, and Morrisseau is considered the father of this style.

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Morrisseau’s art often contains references to Ojibwe and Anishinaabe mythology, legends, and spirituality. His works are celebrated for their bold, expressive style and their powerful, vivid narratives. Morrisseau’s paintings exploring themes of life, death, spirituality, and identity. His work combines traditional Indigenous mythologies with contemporary art techniques, creating a unique and dynamic style known around the world.

Why Did Norval Morrisseau Start Painting?

Norval Morrisseau began painting at an early age. Art was a way for him to explore his cultural identity and preserve his people’s stories and traditions. Morrisseau worked in a variety of mediums, including paint, crayon, and pencil. He would often paint on any surface that was available to him, including birch bark, canvas, and paper.

As a young boy, Morrisseau was exposed to traditional Anishinaabe teachings and legends. This was an essential part of his upbringing, and he later incorporated these stories into his artwork. Morrisseau felt that his artwork was a way of expressing his identity and his connection to his First Nations community.

What is a Norval Morrisseau Painting Worth?

Norval Morrisseau’s paintings are highly sought after by collectors due to their cultural and historical significance. The price of his paintings varies depending on the size, condition, and subject matter. In general, a Norval Morrisseau painting can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.

Some of Morrisseau’s most noteworthy pieces include “Man Changing Into Thunderbird,” “Portrait of a Bear,” and “Shaman Building a Canoe.” These paintings are highly prized by collectors and have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars in private auction.

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How Old Was Norval Morrisseau When He Died?

Norval Morrisseau died on December 4th, 2007, at the age of 75. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years and had been recovering from a stroke when he passed away.

Where Did Norval Morrisseau Grow Up?

Norval Morrisseau grew up in the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nations Reserve, located north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Morrisseau’s upbringing on this reserve helped shape his worldview, and his art reflects the culture, traditions, and stories of his people.

Why Was Norval Morrisseau So Famous?

Norval Morrisseau’s artwork challenged and defied traditional stereotypes of Indigenous art. The Woodland School of Art that he founded broke the traditional mold of what Indigenous art was supposed to look like. Morrisseau‘s artwork told stories that were passed down from his ancestors through the generations and brought to life the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous people.

Through his art, Morrisseau had a thunderous voice that demanded attention and respect. He forced galleries and museums to rethink what Indigenous art is and should look like. Today, Morrisseau is regarded as one of Canada’s most recognized Indigenous artists, and his contributions have been celebrated with awards, recognition, and honors.

What Media Did Norval Morrisseau Use?

Norval Morrisseau worked in several media throughout his career, including acrylics, gouaches, pencils, pens, and lithographs. His favored medium was acrylic on canvas, and its easy use allowed him to create iconic works that capture the fullness of his imagination.

Did Norval Morrisseau Use Acrylic Paint?

Yes, Norval Morrisseau used acrylic paint. Morrisseau began using acrylic paint in the late 1960s. It allowed him to create larger paintings that retained the bright colors and bold lines that were integral to his style. Additionally, acrylic paint dried quickly, which meant that Morrisseau could work faster and create more works of art.

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Where Did Norval Morrisseau Live?

Norval Morrisseau lived in several cities throughout his lifetime, including Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Sioux Lookout. He was a renowned artist who traveled extensively throughout Canada and the United States during his lifetime.

What Materials Did Norval Morrisseau Use?

Norval Morrisseau used a range of materials in his artwork, including paint, paper, canvas, and birch bark. Morrisseau often painted on birch bark, which was a traditional material used by First Nations people for many purposes, including shelter, clothing, and art.


Norval Morrisseau’s artwork represents a unique and powerful voice in Indigenous art. His works are admired and celebrated for their bold, colorful style and their references to Indigenous mythology and spirituality. Morrisseau’s legacy continues today, and his work remains a source of inspiration for Indigenous artists worldwide. We hope that this blog post has provided insight into Morrisseau’s life and artwork, and we encourage you to explore his paintings further to gain a deeper appreciation of his talent and cultural significance.