Art in Focus: "Repose" by Daphne Odjig

Titled "Repose" (2022.2.1), this pencil drawing depicts a tranquil, harmonious scene and represents the artists’ later body of work.

Hailed as one of the founding members of the arts advocacy group, the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation (PNIAI), multidisciplinary artist and author Daphne Odjig’s work has long captivated audiences. Throughout her career, Odjig has not only combined Odawa-Potawatomi worldviews and aesthetics in her art, but also sought to collectively organize and advocate for Indigenous artists across Canada. Her path-breaking work continues to inspire generations of artists, writers, and thinkers today.

Titled Repose (2022.2.1), this pencil drawing depicts a tranquil, harmonious scene and represents the artists’ later body of work. In the image, there are three faces embedded in soft, contouring pastel hues. The imagery used in this work of art, like in many others, Odjig conveys the feeling of an all-encompassing protective love. Often affectionately referred to as “the grandmother of First Nations art, the theme of motherhood in particular features prominently in the artist’s trajectory.”1

A significant aspect of Odjig’s career has been her role within the PNIAI, an Indigenous-led artist alliance group that organized from the 1960s until the mid-1980s. The group's artists included Norval Morrisseau, Alex Janvier, Jackson Beardy, Joseph Sanchez, Carl Ray and Eddy Cobiness. These artists came together in the 1960s as the result of a resurgence in Indigenous political activism and cultural revival. As curator Michelle LaVallee writes, “the group’s life experiences were inextricably tied to the then-named federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) and to the Indian Act, whose policies affect the daily lives of people living under its jurisdiction.”2 As a result, the collective sought to critically challenge and transform the personal, economic, cultural and political constraints imposed upon them and their art.3

Repose (2022.2.1) is a recent acquisition and the first work by Daphne Odjig in the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection. In addition to receiving many accolades, honours and awards, her work is in the collections of numerous galleries and museums in Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. In 2009, the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Sudbury organized and circulated a major retrospective of the artists’ work, The Drawings and Paintings of Daphne Odjig: A Retrospective Exhibition, which shed light on Odjig’s multidimensional career. Odjig’s drawing Repose adds to the growing diversity of Indigenous art and perspectives in the University of Alberta Museums collections.

“Matri-Artful,” AGO Insider,, accessed 30 May 2022

Michelle LaVallee. “Headwaters of their own stream.” Canada’s History., accessed 30 May 2022.

In 1974, Odjig and her husband Chester Beavon established the New Warehouse Gallery in Winnipeg to support Indigenous artists, including the members of the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation. For more see:

This web story is part of the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection Spotlight Series, a collection of web stories aimed to share works of art from the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection with the world. Posted monthly, these stories connect works of art in the Collection to important matters on our campus and in our world.