Born in Minnesota with Ojibwe (Grand Portage Band of Chippewa) heritage, Morrison spoke only the Ojibwe language until the age of 9. He attended the Minneapolis School of Art on a tribal scholarship, after which he taught in art schools and pursued postgraduate studies in New York. He won two Fulbright Scholarships to study in France during the 1950s; his time spent in Paris and Aix-en-Provence cemented his attraction to modern art styles, including expressionism and cubism.
The images featured on the stamps highlight Morrison’s landscapes. These works, executed in watercolor, crayon, pencil, and oil, were inspired by the Minnesota environment, especially around Grand Portage and Red Rock Township, Minnesota and the Lake Superior shoreline, where he spent his childhood and returned to live and work in the 1980s. Sun and River is one of his early works (1949); the rest are post-1980.
Morrison’s art remained under-appreciated during his lifetime. In part this was because he straddled two worlds. He was rejected from numerous Indian art exhibitions because he worked primarily in a European style. Indigenous artists were expected to work in traditional media and forms. The artist himself commented on this, saying ‘‘My art was too extreme; it wasn’t Indian enough.” Similarly, he never achieved the success and fame found by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, with whom he worked and exhibited in the 1950s. In retrospect, however, he is regarded as a founder of Native American modernism.
The George Morrison stamps were issued April 22, 2022 in Grand Portage, Minnesota.