Haida Thunderbird by Bill Reid (1920-1998), Haida
Haida Thunderbird, 1981
by Bill Reid (1920-1998), Haida
Silkscreen, Edition of 195
36.5" high x 38.5" wide framed
Haida Nation artist William (Bill) Reid (1920-1998) was a Canadian jeweler, sculptor and print maker. He developed a keen interest in Haida art while working as a radio announcer in Toronto, where he also studied jewelry making. Reid first learnt about his heritage from his maternal grandfather, who had himself been trained by renown Haida artist Charles Edenshaw
In 1951, Reid returned to Vancouver and became interested in the symbolism in Edenshaw's work. During this time he also worked on salvaging artifacts, including many intricately carved totem poles which were then moldering in abandoned village sites, and aided in the partial reconstruction of a village in the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology.
For the next fifty years Reid embraced many art forms. He gradually explored his rich Haida cultural heritage, studying early ethnographic publications, museum collections, and surviving examples of strong works from Haida Gwaii, always trying to understand the logic behind the form.
Inspired by the deeply carved messages of the totems and the lush beauty of the Queen Charlottes, Reid would go on to create many powerful sculptural masterpieces. The Raven and First Men, a native version of the birth of mankind, and The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, showcased at the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C., brought international acclaim, yet his crowning achievement was Lootaas, a 15-meter war canoe carved from a single cedar log.
Reid both celebrated and defended the Haida, using his fame to champion their land claims. When he died in 1998, the Haida took him home, bringing his remains back to his mother’s ancestral village, Tanu, aboard Lootas.
Reid created over 1500 works over his long career, from the “monumentally small” to the “exquisitely huge.” In addition, and perhaps of greater impact, were his parallel careers as broadcaster writer, poet, storyteller and communicator.
Bill Reid was the pivotal force in introducing the world to the great art traditions of the indigenous people of the Northwest Coast. His legacies include infusing that tradition with modern ideas and forms of expression, influencing emerging artists, and building lasting bridges between First Nations and other peoples.