George (John) Morrison
(American, Grand Portage Chippewa, 1919 – 2000)
Naides #10 (Design 2)
oil on canvas, 39 3/8" x 49 1/4"
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Elliott
This abstracted landscape is titled after the nymphs of Greek mythology who were said to give life to springs, fountains, rivers and lakes. In his attempt to evoke a spirit underlying natural phenomenon, George Morrison masterfully organized the elements of color, line, texture, shape and space, producing a sense of water and reflected light in a state of constant movement. Alternately inspired by Lake Superior and the Atlantic coast, Morrison revered and depicted the landscape elements of earth, sea and sky throughout his long career. As the artist stated, “My underlying themes are landscape in both its structural and organic elements. I am fascinated by the mystery of the horizon, the poetry of rocks, the phenomena of sky and water. These responses, which spring from a combination of many things – such as my early years in northern Minnesota and later at Cape Cod, plus the urban experience of New York and the Twin Cities – become part of the inner self.”
Born in a small Ojibwe community on the north shore of Lake Superior, Morrison went on to study in Minneapolis and at the Art Student’s League, where one of his teachers was the abstract painter Morris Kantor. Recognized early on as a masterful draftsman, he emerged as a highly innovative artist who combined an instinctual love of natural forms with compositions influenced by surrealism and the new abstract art of the post-WW II New York School. Morrison is also recognized as one of the first artists to successfully synthesize American Indian themes with modern and contemporary art trends, and as such, he avoided the stereotype of “Indian artist,” preferring to call himself an “artist who happens to be Indian.” Morrison’s mature work can be seen as a result of several influences: the styles of surrealism and abstract expressionism to which he was directly exposed as a young student; the natural landscape, particularly that of Lake Superior; his Ojibwe heritage; and an intuitive sense of design, order and color. As the largest fine arts collecting institution near Morrison’s Grand Portage home and studio, the Tweed Museum of Art is fortunate to possess one of the largest collections of the artist’s works extant.