Daphne Odjig


24 x 21.5 in.

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Each of these prints captures a particular moment that speaks of Odjig’s own experiences growing up. Listening is an entrancing print, the joyous smile of the Grandfather as he hugs his grandchild closely, listening to the child. The only clear distinction between the figures is their individual heads and their feet; their blankets and clothing otherwise meld together, suggesting rather than defining with sinuous calligraphic shapes.

The moment portrayed in Learning is self-evident and speaks not only of the universal idea of children learning from their elders, but also a culture-specific action. The figures wrapped in decorative, traditional blankets provide a hint that the topic of discussion may also be traditional. The intimate proximity of the figures to each other also adds to the portrayal – it is learning, not teaching.

Comforting again captures a universal grandparent moment, the face of the Grandfather serene and calming, the faces of the two grandchildren relaxed in total trust. Again, the bold shapes and blocks of colour serve to highlight the countenance of the individuals, while the bodies and clothing meld together. This joining of shapes is stylistic, yet also part of the story of this series – the grandfather and the grandchildren are individuals, but also joined closely by bonds of affection and family.

This idea of separate yet connected is emphasized in Belonging, which shows a group of children snugged close to the central grandfather figure. The body shapes in this work flow towards the centre – towards the Grandfather – creating a movement that is both physical and emotional.

Each of the prints in this series speaks of family, culture and the important relationship and deep affection that can and should exist between elders and children – appropriate for someone who is herself seen as a matriarchal figure who has captured her people’s voice, history and legends in a unique artistic style. Odjig has inspired many as one of the co-founders of the "Indian Group of Seven" (Professional Native Indian Artists Association), participating in the very first exhibition of Native artists in a Canadian public gallery (Winnipeg, 1972). Although originally associated with the Woodland School of Anishnabe painters, Odjig developed her own approach, one both fluid and expressive that comes across clearly in the strongly personal Homage to Grandfather series.