Approaches to American Indian Identity 1945-c. 1970: An Analysis of the Art of Patrick desJarlait and George Morrison

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Art and Design | Arts and Humanities | History | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


Nathanael Hauser, Art; Annette Atkins, History


In the 1940s, when Anishinabe artists Patrick DesJarlait and George Morrison made their entrance into the fine art world, American Indian fine art was dominated and defined by a single style – the Traditional style. DesJarlait and Morrison were two of the first American Indian artists to successfully rebel against this style. In breaking with the style, they redefined what it meant to be an American Indian artist and opened up the American Indian fine art movement for those to come after them. But their art tells another story as well. An analysis of their work between 1945 and c.1970 shows their very different approaches to their native identity. Both of these aspects, the artists’ break with the Traditional style and their approaches to their own identity, are made more understandable through a study of their artistic influences, their pasts, and Indian-white relations during their lifetime.