Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Morrisseau Legacy missing links (Part V)

Ilona E. Nagy (1926-2012)
/Norval Morrisseau's promoter and a friend/

Ilona E. Nagy

~ Founder of Tom Thomas Native Art Museum
   (former Northumberland Native Art Museum)

   Cobourg, Ontario

~ Owner/operator of Art Imperial Gallery
   Toronto, Ontario

>>> Ilona E. Nagy, born in Budapest, Hungary in 1926, came to Canada in 1957.  While struggling to adopt to a strange and new environment, her well-established knowledge of portraiture, gained in Hungary and Europe, enabled her to make her contribution to the artistic circles of Canada.

Her style is identifiable; a blend of European and Canadian elements, a vigorous brush stroke, the use of palette knife, and the bright and vibrant colors. Professor Christo Stefanoff, a master of the palette knife, was for four years her most valued teacher in Canada. Professor Christo Stefanoff left such a strong impact on the Canadian art scene that when he died in 1966 he was given a gun salute by the Royal Canadian Air Force squadron.

Ilona E. Nagy has exhibited her work in Europe, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and many other cities in Canada and the United States.  Her paintings and reproductions have been purchased by various galleries across Europe, Canada, and the United States. Her name is found in a Dictionary of Canadian Artists in galleries and museums.  

She has been commissioned to exercise her skills by many Catholic dioceses for a number of churches in Canada.  One of the deepest impressions left upon her as an artist was made by Cardinal P.E Leger, who appointed her personally to do his self-portrait.  More recently she did a life size portrait of St. Patrick, that hangs next to the altar in St. Patrick's church at 131 McCaul Street in Toronto, Ontario located next to the Ilona E. Nagy's "Art Imperial Gallery."

SHAMAN AND TURTLE, 72"x48",  © 1980s Norval Morrisseau;
PROVENANCE: Originally acquired by Ilona E. Nagy directly from the artist;
SOLD at SOTHEBY'S on November 28th, 2011 for $71,500 (click HERE)

Ilona E. Nagy's "Art Imperial Gallery" was located on 130 McCaul Street in Toronto, Ontario and it operated in the 1980s. A major exhibition "Norval Morrisseau: Recent Work" was held in 1983 at "Art Imperial Gallery". This show also travelled in Native American Centre for the Living Arts, Niagara Falls, N.Y., USA and to Thunder Bay National Exhibition Centre and Centre for Indian Art, Thunder Bay, Ontario. 


Norval Morrisseau, 1984
"Familiar yet always new in his art expression NORVAL MORRISSEAU is one of Canada's foremost artists and the acknowledged founder of the Woodland Indian School of Artists. Although his roots lie in the Ojibway culture, his genius as a creative painter defies classification. Morrisseau's self-taught techniques and his intuitive sense of composition and balance are unsurpassed. His paintings with their bold designs and striking colors are instantly recognizable, - they "grow on you" on viewing them. Morrisseau's art has captured the imagination of art lovers everywhere.

Stories of rituals, ceremonies and magical godlike creatures come to life on canvas, as do the visions, dreams and inspirations of Morrisseau experiences, because as he tells us, a Shaman-artist is endowed with special, spiritual powers, "whenever you are looking at my pictures, you are looking at my visions, whatever they may be."

~ Ilona E. Nagy, April 6th, 1983 


This major exhibition of Norval Morrisseau's artworks will be remembered for the first public showing of the monumental 30-foot-long scroll on wove paper titled "Shaman Teaching His Two Halves In a Dream State." This artwork, quite possibly the most important artwork ever created by Norval Morrisseau, was originally acquired by Ilona E. Nagy directly from the artist.

"Shaman Teaching His Two Halves In a Dream State," approx. 3 ft x 30 ft,
© 1983 Norval Morrisseau /Click on image to Enlarge/

Important to note that while Norval Morrisseau worked on this scroll he was also applying finishing touches on the "Androgyny" canvas panels. This major artwork by Norval Morrisseau was donated by the artist to the Canadian people on April 15, 1983.

~ The agent who was representing Norval Morrisseau in the 1980s was Mr. James P. Richards who resided at a time at 23 Baldwin Street in Toronto, Ontario. 

Norval Morrisseau in front of "ANDROGYNY" (12'x20', 1983) at the National Gallery of Canada /© 2006 Bruno Schlumberger, CanWest News Service/ ~ This painting had been donated by Norval Morrisseau to the Canadian people on April 15, 1983

The "Androgyny"  had been on display from September 18th, 2008 until June 20th, 2012 in the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG) in the Rideau Hall (Ottawa) and was seen by hundreds of thousand of the Rideau Hall's guests and visitors. 

Unfortunately, "Shaman Teaching His Two Halves In a Dream State" was not included in exhibition "NORVAL MORRISSEAU - SHAMAN ARTIST" which was the first solo exhibition featuring a First Nations artist in 126-year history of the National Gallery of Canada; held in Ottawa, Ontario from February 3rd to April 30th, 2006.

© 2006 Greg A. Hill - National Gallery of Canada; ISBN 1-55365-176-6
~ Ilona E. Nagy's "Art Imperial Gallery" was noted on page 170
This exhibition "NORVAL MORRISSEAU - SHAMAN ARTIST" was curated by Greg Hill, Audain Curator of Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada, a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators - CAPC and a member of the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society (NMHS).

Over many years, she has built up a Canadian heritage collection for Native Art. Her collection included artworks by Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray, Roy Thomas and other Woodland/Anishinaabe School of Art members.  In 1990 she proudly opened the Native Art Museum in Toronto, Ontario.  The event was a wonderful success with patronage of the Premier of Ontario, Honourable Bob Rae, officiated by his wife Pearl Rae, along with the support of many Provincial members. 

Also, she was invited to attend a celebration of the life and art of Norval Morrisseau (Copper Thunderbird) which was held on Monday, March 31st, 2008 at National Art Gallery, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa.

Ilona E. Nagy died in Cobourg's hospital on January 2nd, 2012.

Source: Northumberland Native Art Museum & various sources

More information about the scroll presented above and about other genuine Norval Morrisseau paintings and prints exhibited and/or sold through "Art Imperial Gallery" to follow...

>>> Reference Links:
- The Morrisseau Legacy missing links (Part I),
  /Ref.: John Zabloski/
- The Morrisseau Legacy missing links (Part II),
  /Ref.: Susan Ross/
- The Morrisseau Legacy missing links (Part III) &
  /Ref.: Clifford & Eleanor Whetung/
- The Morrisseau Legacy missing links (Part IV) &
  /Ref.: Steve Potosky/


Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Matulic
Thank you very much for keeping the public informed of this very important piece of history! This remarkable piece is very important to the Ojiibwe culture and all Canadians! Perhaps it will be on exhibit again one day and we trust you will keep us informed should you hear of such an exhibit! Keep up the good work! Miigwetch!

R Hill said...

I used to visit Ms Nagy”s Museum on several occasions to see the wonderful collection of art and also to view some of her prized Morrisseau paintings. She was highly protective of her Morriseau collection and would personally supervise the viewing of selected pieces to the visitor. I felt privileged. In her museum she had the “Scroll”on display and it truly was a marvellous work to behold. Ms. Nagy would take great pleasure and pride as she would give her detailed account of the Scroll. It was an experience to visit her Native Art Museum in Conourg. In the mansion on entry we were greeted by her son, Tommy. Tommy, a midfle, was always impeccably dressed and would assist and escort my friend, Ava, and myself as we did one of our many tours to view the amazing collection of art on display. Inevitably attention would always come to the Mortisseau collection and it was through Ms Nagy that I learned of and fell in love with Morrisseau. Then unfortunately there was the sad day when Tommy passed away unexpectedly. Tommy was everything to Ms Nagy and her whole purpose was to build the Native Art Museum as a legacy for Tommy. I will miss both Tommy and Ms Nagy. The Cobourg area was fortunate to have for a while and Canada is lucky that she preserved such an unadulterated collection of Norval Morriseau, one of Canada’s finest artists.