In 1962 Morrisseau was the first Aboriginal artist to have work shown in a contemporary art gallery (the Pollock Gallery in Toronto), where his bright, stylized images of Windigos, spirit guides, and animals were so well received that he sold all the paintings at the openning night. His colourful, figurative images delineated with heavy black/blue formlines, were characteristically signed with the Cree syllabic spelling of Copper Thunderbird, the name medicine woman gave him - to overcome the sickness in youth.
Norval Morrisseau completed many commissions during his career, including the mural for the Indians of Canada Pavilion at Expo '67.
He was presented with the Order of Canada (O.C.) in 1978, and in 1980 honourary doctorates from McGill and McMaster Universities. In 1989 he was invited, as the only Canadian painter, to exibit at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris to mark the bicentennial of the French Revolution. In 1995 he was awarded with the eagle feather (the highest honour awarded by the the Assembly of First Nations). In 1996 he was appointed Grand Shaman of the Ojibway and in 2005 he was elected to the ranks of The Royal Society of Canada2 (R.S.C.).
The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa had in 2006 a major retrospective of his works: "Norval Morrisseau - Shaman Artist" - the first solo exhibition featuring a First Nations artist in its 126-year history.
Morrisseau, who had been living in Nanaimo, British Columbia, died at General Hospital in Toronto on December 4th, 2007.
1 - The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts is one of Canada’s most enduring cultural institutions is comprised of members in over twenty visual arts disciplines from across Canada.
2 - The Royal Society of Canada (The Canadian Academy of the Sciences and Humanities) is the senior national body of distinguished Canadian scientists and scholars. Its primary objective is to promote learning and research in the arts and sciences. The Society consists of approximately 1700 Fellows: men and women from across the country who are selected by their peers for outstanding contributions to the natural and social sciences and in the humanities.