Canadian Fine Art
May 29 — June 03, 2021
Auction begins to close at 8:00 pm ET
E.A. Studios Jasper Ltd., Jasper, AB, purchased 2006
Private Collection, Ontario
Prolific artist and original member of the “Indian Group of Seven,” Norval Morrisseau created works in which Anishinaabe mythology, aesthetics and life came together on canvas. Drawing onlookers into the worlds he painted in acrylic, Morrisseau’s flair for storytelling and hidden nuance elevate his works beyond initial realization to something deeply profound and personal.
Completed in 1987, The Merman is a visually captivating and technically unique work by Morrisseau. Painted directly onto deer hide, and assumed to be one of only five other deer hide canvas paintings done by the artist, The Merman honours the Anishinaabe water spirit beings called Nibiinaabeg who appear within Anishinaabe mythology as teachers and helpers, and have their own Clan under the Giishkizhigwan.
The Nibiinaabe represented in the painting is shown wearing a medicine pouch around his neck, which can be interpreted as a healing gesture or as a means of providing safety to those who hold onto the painting. The many fish seen depicted in the merman’s belly indicates the painting could have been made as a medicine painting to bring about fruitful fishing seasons or as a call for abundance to be provided.
The merman, who is painted in the iconic Woodland Style that Morrisseau is known for, is a unique figure differing from much of Morrisseau’s other work by appearing alone, without any thought lines or additional beings. This makes this painting a standout amongst his other works and provides a deep intrigue into what the artist himself was conveying through this choice.
Emma Steen is a freelance curator and writer, as well as the Community Relations Manager for the Indigenous Curatorial Collective. Her area of interest lies in art that explores bodies, sex and love with anti-colonial intention. We thank her for contributing this essay.
Certificate of authenticity from E.A. Studios, Jasper signed by Galal Helmy will be provided to the purchaser.
The work is in excellent condition with no visible issues to report. As this work is painted on deer skin, there are naturally occurring variances of texture on the surface of the support.
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