Teacher Resources

Norval Morrisseau

The Virgin Mary, 1970

Norval Morrisseau has been chastised by Native elders for appropriating images from sacred sites and depicting secret stories only passed down orally by shamans. His work is a combination of these oral traditions and his exposure to Christianity at the residential school he attended.

Essential Questions

  • How do we transfer images into a narrative and then into a visual narrative?
  • How do we describe our images and then use those images to create a visual story?


  • What is iconography?
  • What are petroglyphs?
  • What are pictographs?
  • What techniques does Morrisseau use to create the contrasts in his imagery?
  • What colour palettes does he use?
  • What Canadian singer has an album cover of one of Morrisseau's paintings?

Suggested Activity

  • Take a look around you at symbols that are part of our everyday life, from the Coke logo to traffic symbols. Create a visual story using these symbols or ones you can create. Incorporate one of Morrisseau's palettes and the elements and principles of design he used.