Syllabic Translator

i u a pi pu pa ti tu ta ki ku ka gi gu ga mi mu ma ni nu na si su sa li lu la ji ju ja vi vu va ri ru ra qi qu qa ngi ngu nga lhi lhu lha

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Norval H. Morrisseau, R.C.A., ᐅᓵᐚᐱᐦᑯᐱᓀᐦᓯ



acrylic on paper on card, signed in syllabics, Paper laid onto card. Slight bowing to board. Surface dust at bottom edge (covered by frame). Two small areas of lifting and tear to paper on left edge, folded over, hidden by frame. Accretions at top left corner are artist generated. Overall good condition.

Please contact the specialist for further condition information.

30 x 22.25 in — 76.2 x 56.5 cm

Acquired directly from the artist;
Estate of Robert Lavack, North Bay, ON

Purchased directly from the artist in 1969 by Mr. Robert Lavack. Mr. Lavack was employed by the Ontario Department of Education and stationed in North Bay, ON. Lavack promoted Morrisseau's work and arranged art tours between 1970-1972. Morrisseau became great friends with Lavack and his family.

Accompanied with a signed letter from Robert Lavack in support of provenance.

Likely for as long as humankind has been making art, artists have made images of mothers with children. Morrisseau is no exception, creating several versions throughout his career. This work in particular is unique: in most of his depictions the mother and child are presented in profile facing each other, connecting through intense eye contact, whereas in this work, the pair are shown as being fully integrated with one another. The mother holds the child close to her breast, nursing and nurturing, enclosing the child protectively in her arms.

It is far more than a simple portrayal of maternal love. Within First Nations beliefs, the connection between generations is understood as being powerful and essential to the success and continuity of the community. Children are seen as a gift from the Creator and that it is through the passing of their language, beliefs and traditions to their children that the communities will continue.

The painting can also be read as an evocation of the role of the artist within society. In this case the mother is the Creator herself, source of all, who holds the artist close and shares with him the ability to understand and see all that is in both the visible and Spirit realm and to share that knowledge with others. It is a reminder that power comes from the connection to Spirit and to the community we share. We are not alone.

This work is a celebration of life and the sustenance of life in all its forms, from the most primal and essential form which is the feeding of a child to that which sustains us metaphorically and spiritually. This painting is rich with multiple meanings and potently encapsulates many of the ideas and themes that Morrisseau explored within his lifetime.

Virginia MacDonnell Eichhorn is an art historian, curator and writer who has been working within the international visual arts world for over 30 years. A contributor to numerous arts journals and catalogue essayist, her curatorial practice encompasses environmental and ecological art, feminism, material culture, presentation within non-traditional environments, and Indigenous art.

Estimate: $6,000—8,000

Auction Results

Auction Date Auction House Lot # Low Est High Est Sold Price
2022-06-09 Waddington's 48 6,000 8,000 6,600.00
2018-03-22 Waddington's 108 300 350 720.00

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