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The Dennos Museum Center

Canadian Woodland Art

In the early 1960s, Canadian Aboriginal art gained acceptance in the Euro-Western canon, after a long history of being regarded as craft or artifact. It was at this time that young Native Canadian artists from the Great Lakes regions banded together to form a unique style that came to be known as the Woodland or Anishinabe style of painting. Members of this group include Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray, Roy Thomas, Sam Ash, Jackson Beardy and Daphne Odjig, among others. The best-known of the group is undoubtedly Norval Morrisseau, who passed away in December 2007, and is often referred to as the father of the Woodland School.

The Algonquin Legend Painters were noted for the outline of the figure and the content of First Nations beliefs. Morrisseau's original conception of the Woodland style pinpoints the geography from which he worked — north of Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada. Yet his work and his influence circled down into and throughout the United States to meet the influence of The Six Nations Artists — Onodaga, Mohawk, Senecan, Cayugan, Tuscarora and Oneida.

In 1963, the first professional exhibition of Woodland Art was opened in Toronto at the Jack Pollock Gallery. In the mid 1970s, Northwestern Michigan College exhibited the print work of many of the Woodland artists. During this time Bernie Rink, then Director of NMC’s Osterlin Library, acquired about 100 works for the college art collection, making it the second largest segment of the Dennos Museum Center’s art collection.