Misshipeshu Water God and Miskinuk the Turtle (1965) Norval Morrisseau – CCI Morrisseau Project Report (2008 – 2009)

Misshipeshu Water God and Miskinuk the Turtle
Norval Morrisseau
1965, Oil on canvas, 52” x 36”

Research & Development Projects
Canadian Conservation Institute 2008 – 2009 (Report Excerpt)

Project Title: Materials and Techniques of Norval Morrisseau

Project Description: The purpose of the project is to analyze the painting materials and document the techniques used by Norval Morrisseau in order to build a database, which will assist in devising treatments and selecting appropriate display and storage conditions.

The project will also provide reference analyses for paintings for which the attribution is uncertain.

Norval Morrisseau is one of Canada’s best known First Nations’ artists. A research project into Morrisseau’s materials and techniques was first proposed in 2001 by Robert Arnold and Peter Vogel. The retrospective exhibition, “Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist”, organized by Greg Hill, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Canada, to be held February 3 to April 30, 2006, provides an excellent opportunity to initiate this research.

The project would include examination, documentation and sampling a representative selection of Morrisseau’s works, including paintings on birch bark, plywood and canvas. Analysis would include identification of the pigments and binding media in the paints and ground layers, and documentation of the artist’s technique, supports, signatures, etc.

The project is also timely given recent media reports on the proliferation of Morrisseau forgeries and his family’s attempt to find the source. A committee of Morrisseau experts has recently been established to create a central repository of Morrisseau archives and records, to prepare a catalogue raisonné, and to authenticate Morrisseau works. The users of the results of this project are curators, conservators, scientists, art historians, artists, law enforcement agencies, collectors, and the general public in Canada and internationally.

Project results and information from the project will assist curators, conservators, and scientists by providing essential data on Morrisseau’s materials and techniques, which are used both in authenticity and attribution studies, and in evaluating the conservation requirements of his works.

Project Dates: 2005 – 2009 CCI Project Leader: Elizabeth Moffatt Project Team: Marie-Claude Corbeil and Robert Arnold (retired) Links/Partnerships: National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canada Council Art Bank, Indian and Inuit Art Centres, Glenbow Museum, Art Gallery of Hamilton, McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Progress Summary: 2005-2007: Twenty-two paintings in the exhibition “Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist” were examined and 150 paint samples were taken. Analysis of the samples was started. 2007-2008: Nine additional paintings were examined and four were sampled. Data from the examination of all thirty-one paintings were compiled. Analysis of the paint samples continued.

Project Proposal: 2008-2009: Complete analysis of the paint samples. Collate and review results.

Dissemination: Research Type: Applied Scientific Research (Analytical) CCI Number: 92349