Artwork by Bill Ronald Reid,  Haida Medallion Brooch

Bill Reid
Haida Medallion Brooch

22 karat gold repoussé sculpture
signed and dated 1963 on the reverse (incised)
1.75 x 1.75 ins ( 4.4 x 4.4 cms ) ( diameter )

Sold for $29,500.00
Sale date: November 20th 2018

Private Collection, Calgary
Bill Reid and Buschlen-Mowatt Gallery, Bill Reid: All the Gallant Beasts and Monsters, Vancouver, 1992, page 28
William Ronald (Bill) Reid’s intricate 22 karat gold Haida medallion repoussé brooch typifies the artist’s intentions of interpreting his ancestors' artistic traditions in a contemporary form. Born to a Haida mother and a Scottish-American father, Reid was unaware of his native heritage until his teenage years. He was introduced to Haida culture through his maternal grandfather, and later inherited the artistic tools of his great-great-uncle Charles Edenshaw, a renowned Haida artist. Reid had been studying European jewelry and engraving at the Ryerson Institute of Technology in the late 1940s. He returned to Vancouver in 1951, and encountered two gold bracelets designed by Edenshaw at his grandfather's funeral in 1954. Knowledge of the conventions of Haida art had all but dissolved completely, so Reid took it upon himself to study the gold and silver jewellery by Edenshaw in person at museums. He also copied images from reference books on Haida myths and argillite carvings in order to understand the fundamental dynamics of Haida art. Reid set up a basement workshop to apply the traditional jewellery-making techniques he had learned to traditional Haida designs.

Reid became accomplished in several media; he carved in silver, gold, wood and argillite and cast in bronze, referring to himself as "a maker of things" rather than an artist. He handcrafted personal objects of adornment that were adaptations from old crest designs or identity symbols, such as this delicate gold brooch with a finely detailed repoussé mask design. As a result, Reid has often been credited with the innovative revitalization of Northwest Coast Native arts.

Repoussé is a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal - in this instance, 22 karat gold - is ornamented by hammering from the underside to create a design in low relief. This ancient method, which dates back to antiquity, achieved widespread popularity in Europe during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Repoussé has been used widely with gold and silver for fine detailed work and with copper, tin, and bronze for larger sculptures. ‘Chasing’ is the technique to refine the design and add details to the ornamented side of the metal; in addition, further refinement is often accomplished using engraving. In this striking 22 karat gold brooch, Reid combines the classical European practice of repoussé with traditional Haida characteristics, linking his jewellery-making expertise to his own heritage in a contemporary rendering. Distinguishing Haida features are evident in the form of the face, as well as the stylized designs that encircle the brooch.

Prominent Vancouver jeweller and friend of the artist, Toni Cavelti praises Reid’s artistic and cultural revitalization: “It has been stated that the designs of the Haida are perhaps the most beautiful, the most cohesive, the most harmonious of any of the early cultures. If that is so, then Bill Reid’s interpretation of it has brought it to its highest form. His creations exist because they had to be done and because for generations this sense of beauty and design and craftsmanship has been an inherent part of his people and his heritage.”

Share this item with your friends

Bill Ronald Reid
(1920 - 1998)