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Allen Sapp  RCA OC (1929 - 2015)

Allen Sapp 'Heading Home'



As a child, his favourite activity was drawing and sketching. He moved from the Plains Cree reserve to North Battleford, Sask, in 1960 to pursue a career as a professional artist. In 1966 Dr A.B. Gonor arranged for him to be tutored by Wynona Mulcaster of Saskatoon. Gonor continued to work with Sapp, encouraging him to paint the reserve life as he knew it.

Sapp is widely regarded as one of Canada's foremost native painters. Sapp's success as a painter in the realist tradition (associated more with European art) made him a pioneer of the new "native arts." His paintings depict the ordinary day to day life he lived with his grandparents on the reserve in the 1930's and 1940's. Although all his images are drawn from his own personal experience, his work has come to be seen as a sensitive portrayal of the life of the Northern Plains Cree in the early part of the 20th century. Sapp, now in his 70s, continues to paint and frequently includes images of contemporary Cree culture, such as colourful powwows alongside dynamic chuckwagon races. (Sapp continues to dance at powwows across North America.)

In 1989 a public gallery was opened in his name to house a significant collection of his art donated to the City of North Battleford by the Gonor family. The Allen Sapp Gallery: The Gonor Collection, as it is known, features new exhibitions on the artist every six months and has an extensive archive on his life, including information on books, films, and television documentation about Sapp, and awards he has received.

In 1994, the Mackenzie Gallery in Regina, with the co-operation of the Allen Sapp Gallery, organized a retrospective exhibition "Kiskayetum," which toured across Canada, including a stop at the museum of civilization in Hull, Québec. Sapp is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Click here to visit the website of the Allen Sapp Gallery

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Updated last on May 23, 2023

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