Celebrated artist Daphne Odjig was born in 1919 on the Wikwemikong Reserve, Manitoulin Island. Her heritage is a combination of Odawa, Potawatomi and English roots, the Native aspects of which were revealed to Odjig as a child on sketching excursions with her grandfather. From him, a stone-carver, she learned not only the legends of her ancestors, but also the use of curvilinear design for which she has become so well known.
Odjig had painted for most of the years of her life, but it was in the 1960's that she began to exhibit a deliberately Native perspective in her work and, like her grandfather, felt compelled to try to instruct the young about their heritage. To do so, she began to focus her art-making upon the legends, joys and realities of aboriginal life, while simultaneously refining her signature style of utilizing clear colours, soft, curving contours enclosed in black outlining, transparency and overlapping of shapes and modernist, abstracted figuration.
Odjig became a founding member of the first Canadian Native-run printmaking operation, the Canadian Professional Native Artist Association, or the "Native Group of Seven" as they were described in the 70's. By this time , she was exhibiting her work several times a year, and had already gained international exposure in the United States, Europe and Japan. Her numerous awards include Honorary Doctorates of Letters from Laurentian University and the University of Toronto and more recently from Okanagan University College in June 2002, Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops in 2007, appointment to The Order of Canada, and the election to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art. In 2007, she was also given the governor's General award for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts, followed by investiture into the Order of British Columbia. She also received the Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Okanagan Arts Awards in 2010. In addition, in 1978 she was presented with an Eagle Feather by Chief Wakageshig on behalf of the Wikwemikong Reserve, in recognition of her artistic accomplishments- an honour previously reserved for men to acknowledge prowess in hunt or war. Documentaries by the CBC, the National Film Board and Tokyo Television have been made about Odjig, and she's completed commissions such as those for Expo '70 in Japan, Royal Ontario Museum, and the 27-foot mural at the Museum of Civilization, "The Indian in Transition".
Highly stylized portrayals of human interaction, activities and relationships, particularly in the context of Native culture, dominate Odjig's painting, drawing and printmaking. Circular motifs predominate, signifying to Odjig "completion, perfection, and ...woman,". In her own words "As an artist and as a person I have been impressed since childhood with the process that takes us from the inner image to the external reality of an image. For me it has been an endless source of delight and wonderment that awareness, thoughts and recognitions can come seemingly unbidden from an inner source that, in adulthood, I learned to call the unconscious. I know now as an adult, that every one of us is a fusion of the eternal, of ancestral wisdom or caution as well, a seer of the future- but some part of us always remains capable of responding to here and now with originality."
Designs inspired by Daphne's work have been used to produce clothing used in the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in March of 2003.Recently more designs from her work have been used for ties, scarves and bandanas. In 2010 a line of children's clothing called the Nanabush collection was released in conjunction with reprinting the Nanabush series of books that Daphne illustrated previously.A collection of fine women's coats and jackets have also been released.
In 2007, 2008 and 2009 shows of Daphne Odjig's works were cris crossing North America. Forty years of her prints were being shown in Kamloops,BC and the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa,ON while forty years of her originals were being shown in Sudbury, ON, Kamloops,BC, Kleinburg, ON The Institute of American Indian Art in Sante Fe, NM, Regina, SK and the National Gallery in Ottawa.
Daphne is the first Aboriginal female to have a one person show at the National Gallery. This is yet another milestone that Daphne has achieved in her lifetime.
Daphne Odjig passed away on October 1, 2016 at the age of 97.Her influence will be felt in the Aboriginal arts and the arts community at large for decades.Daphne said many times she was not a woman artist, a native artist, a Canadian artist but an artist for all.
Daphne Louise Odjig CM OBC RCA LLB
1987 Member of the Order of Canada
2010 Order of British Columbia
2007 Governor Generalís Laureate, Visual & Media Arts
2010 Okanagan Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual arts, Kelowna
Golden Jubilee Medal
Diamond Jubilee Medal
1982Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, conferred by Laurentian University, Sudbury ON
1985Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, conferred by the University of Toronto, Toronto ON
1993 Doctor of Education, honoris causa, conferred by Nipissing University, North Bay, ON
2002 Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, conferred by
Okanagan University College, Kelowna, BC (08.06.02)
2007Doctor of Letters, honoris causa conferred by Thompson Rivers University,Kamloops BC (8.06.07)
2008Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa,conferred by
the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto ON (23.05.08)
2008Doctor of Laws, honoris causa conferred by
the University of Western Ontario,London ON (12.06.08)
2011Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, conferred by Algoma University, Sault Saint Marie ON (07.05.11)
View a video of Daphne Odjig in the McMichael Collection here:
Confluence - 1978 32 x 40 in. Acrylic on canvas
Mary With Children - 1976 40 x 34 in. Acrylic on canvas
The Sentinels of Knowledge -1981 30 x 24 in. Acrylic on canvas
An Impressive Performance - 1990 48 x 40 in. Acrylic on canvas
Companions 32/100 - 1992 21 x 17 in. Silk Screen Print
The Squaw Man - 1970 40 x 30 in. Acrylic on board
Mood - 1974 17.75 x 21 in. Acrylic on board
Medicine Man and the Shaking Tent - 1975 23 x 18 in. Acrylic on paper
Boats In Harbour, Victoria -1963 22 x 30 in. Oil on board
Homeward Bound - 1983 30 x 24 in. Acrylic on canvas
Eagle Dancers 62/75 - 1977 23.5 x 19.5 in. Print Media
Trees, Columbia Valley - 1963 20 x 24 in. Oil on board
Two Nudes - 1962 22 x 30 in. Oil on board
The Rhythm of the Dream 55/75 - 1977 23.5 x 19.5 in. Print Media
Nanabush and Her Daughter 25.5 x 21 in. Glass
Woman In the Window 21.75 x 19.5 in. Glass
Pow Wow Dancers 16.5 x 14 in. Glass
Trauma of our Time 10 x 7.5 in. Coloured pencil
Travelling to Places Unknown 10.5 x 7.5 in. Coloured pencil
The Battle of Good and Evil - 1968 24 x 36 in. Acrylic on paper
Lady on a Chair - 1967 18 x 15 in. Pastel
Cabin on the Lake, Columbia Valley - 1959 15 x 18 in. Pastel
Summer - 1973 20 x 17 in. Acrylic drybrush on paper
Harvest Time - 1958 - Inspiration, Van Gogh 18 x 14 in. Acrylic on paper
The Squaw Man - 1975 - 41/60 43 x 31 in. Silk Screen Print
Trees - 1963 30 x 22 in. Oil on board
Winter Scene - 1946 32 x 40 in. Oil on canvas
The Stream, Columbia Valley - 1952 18 x 24 in. Oil on board
Myself by the Fireplace, Cultus Lake - Circa 1961 19.5 x 14 in. Pastel
Genesis 1976 - Used as Christmas Stamp - 2002 1 x 0.75 in. Print Media
Tapestry of Time 40 x 32 in. Acrylic on canvas
Tribute To Courage - 1987 - AP 22 x 18 in. Silk Screen Print
Poster From 4 Decades of Prints 23 x 13.5 in. Print Media
Poster form National Gallery Show 2009 33 x 23 in. Print Media
Belonging - One of Four - Homage Grandfather Portfolio - Set 16/99 30 x 21 in. Print Media
Listening - One of Four - Homage To Grandfather Portfolio Set 16/99 32 x 21 in. Print Media
Learning - One of Four - Homage To Grandfather Portfolio Set 16/99 32 x 21 in. Print Media
Comforting - One of Four - Homage To Grandfather Portfolio Set 16/99 32 x 21 in. Print Media