Grey Owl, whose real name was Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, was born in Hastings, England, in 1888. He immigrated to Canada in 1906, became a fur trapper and invented an Indigenous identity for himself. In 1925, his wife, Anahareo, of Algonquin and Mohawk descent, convinced
him that his hunting activities were harmful to the environment.
He then set about spreading his new ecological convictions and became an early conservationist for Canada’s national parks. The author of Tales of an Empty Cabin (1936) wrote various successful novels that delighted the young Riopelle. In 1936, the artist attended a talk given by Grey Owl. In 1938, Archibald “Grey Owl” Belaney passed away in Beaver Lodge, Saskatchewan, now a popular tourist destination. In this large painting executed in Paris, we can make out the famous fur trapper’s cabin by the lake from the profusion of coloured strokes rendering the Canadian forest. This Englishman who had usurped an Indigenous identity, this fur trapper who had taken up the cause of environmental protection, had all the elements needed to capture Riopelle’s interest.