Alex Janvier

May 20 to September 10, 2017

This retrospective presents more than five decades of Alex Janvier’s remarkable paintings and drawings, spanning from early in the artist’s career in the 1960s to the present day. It consists of more than a hundred of his most impressive works, drawn from public and private collections across Canada, and features his best-known pieces alongside those that rarely have been seen. Works on paper, canvas and linen range in scale but are consistent in their unique approach to representing a Dene geocultural landscape. A long-time resident of Cold Lake First Nations in northern Alberta, Janvier combines Denesuline iconography and modernist abstraction in his paintings to express a personal aesthetic that relates to his physical and cultural surroundings. Janvier’s graceful abstractions also include representational imagery that references an ancient past, more recent histories of Aboriginal peoples and his experience of the effects of colonization and residential schools. The exhibition celebrates this extraordinary artist’s lifetime of creativity, knowledge and perspective gained from his love of the land, art and Dene culture.

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada

janvier headshot

janvier headshot


Alex Janvier (b. 1935) was born at Cold Lake First Nations, Alberta, and is of Denesuline/Saulteaux (Anishinaabe) heritage. In 1960, Janvier received his Fine Arts Diploma with Honours from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, after which he worked as an art instructor at the University of Alberta (1961). Janvier was later hired as a cultural adviser to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) and helped to establish cultural policy for the Cultural Affairs Program (1965). He was also appointed to the Aboriginal Advisory Committee for the Indians of Canada pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal, where he painted a nine-foot circular mural titled Beaver Crossing Indian Colours

Janvier received several honours over the years, including: Lifetime Achievement awards from the Tribal Chiefs Institute, Cold Lake First Nations (2001), and the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (2002); the Centennial Medal for outstanding service to the people and province of Alberta (2005); Member of the Order of Canada (2007); the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2008); the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Marion Nicoll Visual Arts Award (2008); the Alberta Order of Excellence (2010); and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013). Janvier has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Alberta (2008), the University of Calgary (2008), and Blue Quills First Nations College (2012). 

His work has been exhibited in many solo exhibitions including, most recently, ALEX JANVIER, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton (2012). He has been included in numerous group exhibitions, nationally and internationally, including: Treaty Numbers 23, 287, 1171, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg (1972); Indian Art ’74, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (1974); Two Worlds, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina (1985); Eight from the Prairies, Thunder Bay Art Gallery (1987); In the Shadow of the Sun, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau and the University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany (1989); Land Spirit Power, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1992); Honouring Tradition: Reframing Native Art, Glenbow Museum, Calgary (2008); and 7:Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina (2013).. His work can be found in several prominent public and private collections, including: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (ON); Alberta Art Foundation (AB); Canada Council Art Bank (ON); Canadian Museum of Civilization (QC); Glenbow Museum (AB); The Late Lester B. Pearson Collection (AB); MacKenzie Art Gallery (SK); McMichael Canadian Art Collection (ON); Mendel Art Gallery (SK); Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (QC); National Gallery of Canada (ON); Thunder Bay Art Gallery (ON); and Winnipeg Art Gallery (MB). His major commissions include a mural for The Indians of Canada Pavilion, Expo ’67, Montreal (1967); Tribute to Beaver Hills for Strathcona County Hall (1976); The Seasons, for the Canadian Museum of Civilization (1978); his 450 square metre mural, Morning Star, for the Canadian Museum of Civilization (1993); and the White Buffalo ($200 coin) for the Royal Canadian Mint (1998). The Janvier Gallery opened in the City of Cold Lake, Alberta in 2003 and later relocated to its new space at Cold Lake First Nations in January 2012.

Alex Janvier: Photo Kim Griffiths

School Tours

MacKenzie School Tours are an exciting opportunity for students and educators to discover and explore Saskatchewan’s largest public art gallery. Designed to support provincial curricula, MacKenzie School Tours offer a two hour, hands-on learning experience complete with a guided tour and interactive studio activities.

This spring, the Gallery invites you to explore a unique combination of exhibitions. Our interactive gallery tours will include an investigation of the artwork of contemporary Indigenous artist Alex Janvier, as well as the artwork of Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, to challenge perspectives on Canadian identity as it relates to several current societal issues. Read more...

Reserve your tour online today! 


Alex Janvier, Spring Equinox, 2002, oil on linen, 160 cm (diameter). Courtesy of the artist and Janvier Gallery, Cold Lake First Nations. © Alex Janvier. Photo: NGC

Installation view: Alex Janvier exhibition, presented at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 25 November 2016 to 17 April 2017 © Alex Janvier. Photo: NGC.

Alex Janvier, Land of Beauty and Joy, 2015, watercolour on paper, 91.4 cm (diameter). Courtesy of the artist and Janvier Gallery, Cold Lake First Nations © Alex Janvier. Photo: NGC

Alex Janvier, Untitled, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 165.1 × 266.7 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (42867) © Alex Janvier. Photo: NGC

Alex Janvier, Coming of the Opposite, 1972, acrylic on canvas, 61.3 × 92.3 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (41203) © Alex Janvier. Photo: NGC

Alex Janvier, Wounded Knee Boy, 1972, acrylic on wood, 121.9 cm (diameter). Courtesy of the artist and Janvier Gallery, Cold Lake First Nations © Alex Janvier. Photo: Don Hall, courtesy of the MacKenzie Art Gallery

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