Allen Sapp, R.C.A.
First Name: Allen
Last Name: Sapp
Full Name: Allen Fredrick Sapp
Alternative Names: Kiskayetum (meaning “he perceives it”)
Date of birth: January 2, 1928
Place of birth: Red Pheasant Reserve, North Battleford, Saskatchewan
Date of death: December 29, 2015
Place of death: North Battleford, Saskatchewan
Community / Heritage: Cree
Art Media: Acrylic, canvas, oil.
Allen Sapp was a Canadian Cree painter. He was born to Alex and Agnes Sapp in 1928 at the Red Pheasant Reserve near North Battleford, Saskatchewan. From a young age, Sapp was raised by his maternal grandparents, Albert and Maggie Soonias. By 1945, four of Sapp’s seven siblings had died and his mother passed away from tuberculosis. As a child, Sapp was often sick and frequently bedridden. During this period of illness, Sapp was given a new powerful Cree name, “Kiskayetum” (“he perceives it”). He never learned to read or write, and would spend long hours sketching and drawing in bed. His grandmother encouraged his creativity and love of drawing; their relationship would play a significant role in his life and artistic development.
In 1955, Sapp married Margaret Paskemin Whitford. She would spend several years in the Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Prince Albert, where she would give birth to their son David in 1957. After the death of Sapp’s grandparents in 1963, the couple moved to North Battleford where they rented the upper storey of a house. Sapp became interested in pursuing a career as a professional artist. To make ends meet, he worked part-time at a craft store while painting in the evenings.
In 1966, Sapp met Dr. Allan Gonor at the medical clinic in North Battleford. Dr. Gonor immediately recognized Sapp’s talent and encouraged him to paint what he knew: his memories of his childhood and life on the Red Pheasant Reserve. Sapp entered an intensely productive period of his career, painting one or two paintings a night.
Dr. Gonor continued to mentor Sapp and helped him develop connections with other art professionals. Wynona Mulcaster, an art professor at the University of Saskatchewan, encouraged Sapp and advised him on content and technique. In September of 1968, Mulcaster invited Sapp to show his paintings at her home in Saskatoon. The show was a great success. Seven months later, Sapp held a show of 61 oils and acrylics at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon; the exhibition was a success critically and financially. Within the next five years, the artist had several shows in England, Canada and the United States.
By 1974, Sapp found commercial success and widespread attention. He became the subject of a book “Portrait of the Plains” by then-Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, Grant MacEwan. His life and art were also the subject of a CBC and a National Film Board documentary. He met with a number of important people, including Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Princess Margaret, to whom he presented one of his paintings.
In 1975, he was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. In 1980, the book “A Cree Life: The Art of Allen Sapp” was released and became a Canadian bestseller. On December 5, 1985, Sapp became one of the first recipients of the Saskatchewan Award of Merit. In 1986–1987, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.
In 1989, The City of North Battleford opened a public art gallery in honour of Dr. Allan Gonor and Allen Sapp. A donation of Sapp’s paintings by Gonor and his wife comprise the foundation of the collection.
Sapp married Margaret Berryman in 1990. They lived together until her death in 2011. Sapp himself passed away on Tuesday, December 29, 2015, in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada.
- 1969: Robertson Galleries
- 1969: Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon
- 1989: The Gonor Collection, North Battleford, SK
- 1998: The Frontier's Edge Prairie Art Gallery, Grande Prairie AB
- 1997: Claiming Ourselves, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon SK
- 1996-1997: Kiskayetum, an Allen Sapp Retrospective at the Canadian Museum of Civilization Hull, PQ - travelling exhibition
- 1971: "By Instinct A Painter", film documentary, CBC
- 1977: "A Cree Life: The Art of Allen Sapp", John Anson Warner and Thecla Bradshaw
- 1973: "Colours of Pride", film documentary, National Film Board of Canada
- 1983: "Four Prairie Artists", film documentary, CBC
- 1989: "Allen Sapp: For Art's Sake", film documentary, STV
- 1990: "Two Spirits Soar: The Art of Allen Sapp", published by Stoddart
- 1994: "On the Road Again", CBC
- 1996: "I Heard the Drums", Allen Sapp, published by Stoddart, three paintings were selected for UNICEF'S card series
- 2010: Rocky Mountain Outlook
- 1975: Elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
- 1985: One of the first eight recipients of the Saskatchewan Award of Merit.
- 1987: Appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.
- 1996: Recipient of a Lifetime Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Saskatchewan Arts Board.
- 1998: Awarded with an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of Regina.
- 1999: Recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award.
- 2003: Received the Governor General's Literary Award for his illustrations in the children's book The Song Within My Heart.
- 2005: Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award in the First Nations Category: Through the Eyes of the Cree and Beyond: The Art of Allen Sapp – A Story of a People.
Recent Auction Results
Estimate: 3,000 — 3,500
Sold: Mar 2020 — Sold For: $3,900
Estimate: 2,000 — 2,500
Sold: Mar 2020 — Sold For: $4,500
Estimate: 800 — 1,000
Sold: Dec 2019 — Sold For: $1,320
Estimate: 800 — 1,000
Sold: Nov 2019 — Sold For: $960
Estimate: 800 — 1,000
Sold: Nov 2019 — Sold For: $2,400
Estimate: 1,000 — 1,200
Sold: Sep 2019 — Sold For: $960