Christianity was a steady but uncomfortable influence in Morrisseau’s life:

There was always the Church and the Church wanted me to obey the dogma.

Art of Norval Morrisseau, p. 49.

Morrisseau presents Jesus Christ as part of the Ojibwe society of Wageesh-gukawiinin-wuk.

I went through a phase of painting Christian religious pictures, but yet I always saw them with the eyes of the Indian.

Art of Norval Morrisseau, 1979, p. 42.

Norval Morrisseau, Portrait of the Artist as Jesus Christ, 1966.

Norval Morrisseau, Indian Jesus Christ, 1974.

I feel that I have outgrown Christianity. Christ never enters my mind anymore. But I do believe he was a good soul…I worshipped him but I had been brainwashed until I feared him.

Norval Morrisseau, Art of Norval Morrisseau, p. 42.

Morrisseau painted both The Infant Jesus and Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus and St. John while in jail for six months in Kenora, Ontario.

Norval Morrisseau, Joseph and Jesus and St. John the Baptist, 1973.

Norval Morrisseau, Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus and St. John, 1973.

Norval Morrisseau, The Infant Jesus (Nativity Scene), 1973.


See how Morrisseau shaped his artistic language over a fifteen-year period. The early painting is similar in colours but is more of a realist portrait of the saint. Look at how Morrisseau painted the haloes in each version.

Norval Morrisseau, Lily of the Mohawks, 1974.

Morrisseau was attracted to the story of Kateri Tekakwitha who met Jesuits in 1667 and converted to Catholicism. A number of miracles were attributed to her. In 2012 she was canonized and recognized as a saint. Morrisseau painted her image at least three times, beginning in 1958.

Norval Morrisseau, Lily of the Mohawks, 1958.

This early painting was discovered under another painting while undergoing conservation treatment.

Back to top