c. 1982, acrylic on canvass, 22" x 28"
Norval Morrisseau painted dozens of paintings while residing on Baldwin Street in Toronto in the early 1980s. The proprietor of the "Art Imperial Gallery", a stone's throw from the Art Gallery of Ontario, was a woman named Ilona Nagy. Ms. Nagy, and her son, Tommy, were fascinating characters in their own right. Ilona's stories of door-to-door sales of her own artwork in winter, leaving baby Tommy sleeping in the car, are just the beginning of her entrepreneurial tales.
In 1990 she took her beloved Morrisseau art, purchased "for a song" directly from Norval, and opened the "Native Art Imperial Museum" upstairs. She charged people a few bucks to see her collection of a hundred or more Morrisseaus. From time to time she needed to sell a piece to pay bills, but many thought she over-valued Morrisseau's work. I liked that she prized it so.
In 1987 she attended my exhibition, "The Rabbit and the Resurrection", held at Gallery St. Luke in Toronto. She bought the largest piece in the show on opening night and made a big tadoo in leaving a deposit. When I delivered the painting after the show closed she wouldn't pay me more than half the agreed price so I ended up walking away. I never forgot being squeezed by her, nor did Norval.
All of her paintings are of course authentic, though many were the product of Norval's depressed state of mind at the time, for various legitimate reasons. While his art of this era reflects his temperament, he was ever the master artist and produced more great exploratory art, and even a few masterpieces. I consider this little piece to be one of them.
One day authentic Morrisseaus with erotic content will be sought after by the World's finest collectors and bring the highest valuations. This is world class art that is unique, pertinent and attractive to the aesthetic sensibilities of Paris, London, New York and LA.
Ms. Nagy is still around, though she must be in her eighties. She carries on without her son Tommy, a great guy with real musical talent, that I hear passed away. In Northumberland Ontario she runs a tea house where she still operates her Morrisseau "museum". I think she named it after Tommy. I wish her all the best.Stardreamer