* This post had been originally published on November 29th, 2007
~ REVISED & UPDATED~
"The Storyteller - The Artist and His Grandfather", 68"x37" ea. © Norval Morrisseau 1978 /Collection of "Indian and Northern Affairs", Gatineau, Quebec/
/The information posted below is based on personal experience(s) and exposure(s) to the art of Norval Morrisseau of the Blog Master/
~ The following are examples of inscriptions on Norval Morrisseau paintings/drawings:
1. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics*; Back: Signature in English**+Year+©+Title;
2. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* ; Back: Signature in English**+Year+©+No Title;
3. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* +Year; Back: Signature in English**+Year+©+No Title;
4. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* ; Back-No inscription;
5. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* +Title; Back: Signature in English**+Year+©;
6. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* +Title+Year; Back: Signature in English**+Year+©;
7. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* + Signature in English**+Year+©+Title; Back: No inscription;
8. Front: No inscription; Back: Signature in English**+Year+©;
9. Front- Initials (NM)+Year; Back: No inscription;
10. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* ; Back-Initials (NM)+Year+©+Title;
11. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* ; Back: Signature in English**+Year+©+Title+Stylized image of a Thunderbird;
12. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* ; Back: Signature in English**+Year+©+No Title+Stylized image of a Thunderbird;
13. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* ; Back: Signature in English**+Year+No Title+Thumbprint;
14. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* ; Back: Signature in English**+Year+Title+Thumbprint;
15. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* +Thumbprint; Back: Signature in English**+Year+Title;
16. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* +Thumbprint; Back: Signature in English**+Year+No Title;
17. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics* +©; Back: Signature in English**+Year+No Title;
18. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics*; Back: Initial of the fist name+Last name (in English)**+Year+V+Title;
19. Front: Signature in Cree Syllabics*; Back: Initial of the first name+Last name (in English)**+Year+©+No Title;
20. Front: No signature in Cree Syllabics*+©; Back: Signature in English**+Year+No Title; ETC…
>>> All of the examples listed above are just “some of the ways” that Norval Morrisseu would sign his art. He would sign his full name in English on the back of the canvas and/or paper but sometimes he would sign an abbreviated version depending on how close he was to the painting and/or drawing's edge. Many times he would not sign or write anything on the back of the piece of art. Glenbow Museum in Calgary has 96 original Norval Morrisseau pieces and more than 90% of them are not signed, dated or titled on the reverse. He would usually sign the front Signature in Cree Syllabics+ Signature in English+Year+©+Title or No Title at all in case of a very large canvases but again he would do that for the average size paintings also (click HERE, HERE & HERE). He would also sign diptych paintings by signing only one canvas on the front in Cree syllabics and sometimes he would sign them both instead. Norval Morrisseau would title, date and sign, in both Cree syllabics and English on the faces of each panel and multiple canvas sets.
Also, he would sign many of his paintings just with his initials N. M. on the front and/or on the reverse side of the artworks (click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE & HERE). These paintings were signed in such a way predominantly in decades of the 1950's and 1960's.
Note: Norval Morrisseau started using the Cree syllabics signature in 1957. Harriet Kakegamic, his wife, taught him Cree syllabics, form of writing developed by Methodist missionary James Evans in the 1840's, reflected in Morrisseau's own signature of his works (Copper Thunderbird).
>>> Titles of Norval Morrisseau genuine artworks were executed mostly in this way e.g. “ - SACRED MEDICINE WHEEL - “. As you can see he would draw a dash before and after the title (click HERE). These are some of the tell-tale signs of original paintings of Norval Morrisseau. Sometimes he would paint the copyright symbol © and next to it he would encircle the year of production (click HERE & HERE). Also, he would sign in Cree syllabics his signature on the face of the painting in all possible scenarios eg. horizontally, vertically and, quite commonly painted to follow the curves of the elements in the painting and/or drawing (click HERE, HERE & HERE).
Sometimes he would sign his Cree syllabic signature in three rows and sometimes he would encircle his signature that has been written in the same fashion (click HERE, HERE & HERE). In the 1960's and 1970's he would sign his art as per the above examples mostly with brush while in the 1980's he signed and titled many art pieces in pencil.
Also, sometimes he would inscribe a stylized thunderbird as an addition to his English signature on the reverse side of canvas (click HERE, HERE & HERE).
He would date the paintings and/or drawings e.g. '70 (for painted in 1970) which applies to most of the art pieces from 1950's, 1960's and 1970's - click HERE. In 1980's and 1990's he would mostly date his works e.g. '88 (for painted 1988) - click HERE. Also he would not inscribe anything on the back with Cree syllabics but would signature the piece on the front only.
*it is also worth mentioning that he did many paintings using blue colour rather than the most commonly used black colour for the outlines of his paintings (click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE & HERE).
Please note that in one of the most important of the publicly known pieces of art painted by Norval Morrisseau: "The Storyteller - The Artist and His Grandfather, 1978; he did not paint the third syllabic of his signature in Cree. This is a perfect example that his syllabic signature does not need to be complete as long as the "other elements" in the painting are to be found present.
>>> For the inscription on the back of the painting he would use a paint brush, ballpoint pen, marker, pencil...etc. If the paintings on canvas and/or paper were from a series of paintings that represented one piece of art Norval Morrisseau would mark it in this fashion 1-10, 2-10, 3-10 4-10... (click HERE). At times he would label them as 1 OF 7, 2 OF 7, 3 OF 7, 4 OF 7, 5 OF 7, 6 OF 7 & 7 OF 7 (click HERE).
If the painting was from a series of the same theme he would mark on the back of the canvas and/or paper in Roman numerals “I” or "II" which in this case represented painting No. 1 or No. 2 from the series (click HERE & HERE). At times he would take several canvases with different sizes and paint similar themes executed in different ways with the same or different colour palette.
In most cases for sets on paper he would paint the front in syllabics and he would also number it in one of the bottom corners 1-7, 2-7, 3-7... and in the other corner he would sign his signature in English and date it. Both of these inscriptions would be in pencil and sometimes he would sign the back in English,with a title+year with a paint brush dipped only once leaving a tell tale sign of trailing on the letters (click HERE).The signature would show up obscure and faint at different points in the letters as the brush tip would run out of paint.
If you have a Norval Morrisseau painting and it's title is misspelled know that Norval Morrisseau was not a perfect speller in the English language - he misspelled MANY titles of his paintings and drawings (click HERE, HERE & HERE).
His art is speaking to you. It is amazing how powerful his paintings emanate energy. The image on the front of the canvas is a 'signature' to his style. Morrisseau's signature style of painting blends harmonic colour combinations along with different shapes and sizes. Creating a soothing balance of medicinal colour as seen in the canvas of nature throughout his creations.
Paintings from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were executed by use of oils, tempera, ink, ball-point pen...etc. Acrylics were used upon Jack Pollock (in 1962), his first agent, introduced him to that medium which he liked very much due to the fact that acrylics were drying faster than oils. Morrisseau did not always use “true acrylics" - he would mix his colours with paints of different quality. If you intend to clean any original Norval Morrisseau painting that you have in your collection - DO NOT do it yourself (click HERE). Always consult a professional with extensive experience in painting restoration. If you have canvas that is not stretched do so at an experienced frame shop by asking if they have experience in stretching Norval Morrisseau paintings due to the fact that Morrisseau did not always use the best quality canvas and paint for his works of art. The canvas he used in the 1980's were in most of the cases better in quality than those from his earlier periods.
>>> Norval Morrisseau painted on different mediums such as: canvas, hand-made paper, artist paper, cardboard, drift wood, plywood, animal hide, masonite, particle board, wall panelling, glass, kraft paper, stone, slate, wood board, birch bark... Also, he painted on: fridges, beds, lamp shades, pop cans, glass bottles, wooden ironing boards, frying pans, maple buckets, wooden doors, walls, ladders, cars, framed glass pictures, kitchen tables, chairs, grocery paper bags, animal hide drums, leather vests and much more.
It is difficult to say how many pieces of art Norval Morrisseau had painted or drawn in all his career. In my opinion he had painted more pieces of art than stated in "The Ottawa Citizen" article "Morrisseau experts hunt for up to 10,000 pieces", written by Paul Gessell - January 02, 2007. My guess would be at least twice or even three times that amount which would make him the most prolific artist in art history***, but to prove that would not be an easy task.
*** - According to the Guinness Books of records the most prolific artist is Pablo Picasso who produced about 13,500 paintings/designs in his career.
Note: All of the information stated above will be illustrated with examples in one of the future posts of this Blog.
Ugo Matulić a.k.a. Spirit Walker
> For the purposes of this blog I would like to be referred to as Spirit Walker. Miigwetch!
/The painting in this post is an authentic work of © Norval Morrisseau. Images of this pair of canvases titled "The Storyteller - The Artist and His Grandfather (1978) can be found on page 151 in "The Art of Norval Morrisseau" /Sinclair, Lister, Jack Pollock, and Norval Morrisseau/ -Toronto, Ontario: Methuen, 1979./