Alex Janvier was born in 1935 on the LeGoff Reserve of Cold Lake First Nations, near the Alberta Saskatchewan border. He spoke the Dene language until the age of eight when he was taken from his family and sent to Blue Quills Indian Residential School near St. Paul, Alberta. Despite the negative experiences he became familiar with at the residential school, Janvier was encouraged to pursue art. During his adolescence he received private tutoring with art professor Carlo Altenberg. He pursued formal training at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary and graduated in 1960 with a Fine Arts Diploma with honours.
He is often acknowledged as one of the first Canadian Native modernists. His unique creative style has been inspired by cultural and spiritual elements from his Dene heritage and the forces of nature that surround us. Also influencing his abstract techniques were European modernists, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Joan Miro.
In 1966 he was commissioned by the Federal government to produce eighty paintings for the Department of Indian Affairs.
He was a cultural advisor for the Indian Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montréal and was commissioned to create circular murals for the Indian Pavilion.
In 1971 he committed to becoming a full time artist and, with the support of his wife, he began Janvier Murals and Fine Arts.
In 1973 he became a founding member of the Professional Native Indian Artists Association (widely known as “The Indian Group of Seven”).
In 1974 and 1975 his paintings were included in an Alberta Art Foundation exhibition that traveled to London, Brussels, Paris, New York and Montréal.
Janvier returned to Cold Lake First Nations in 1976 for some peace and privacy.
His first international solo exhibition occured in Linkoping, Sweden in 1977. In 1985, his international exposure grew and he was chosen to represent the country in a Canadian-Chinese Cultural exchange.
In 1992 The National Gallery of Canada’s had its first major international exhibition of contemporary First Nations art which featured some of Janvier's works.
In 1998 he designed a $2 coin, White Buffalo, for the Royal Canadian Mint.
He was an international guest artist of France in 2009.
In 2010, he returned to Sherwood Park to complete two new balcony murals for the Strathcona County Hall.
Some of his honours include membership in the Order of Canada and the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts. He was given the Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts and the Alberta Centennial Medal, as well as Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Tribal Chiefs Institute, and Cold Lake First Nations. In 2008, Alex was honoured to receive the first Marion Nicoll Visual Art Award from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
His work can be seen at The Canadian Museum of Civilization, Janvier Gallery, and The National Gallery of Canada, among others.