Artwork by Bill Ronald Reid,  Haida Killer Whale

Bill Reid
Haida Killer Whale

signed, dated 1985 and numbered “A/P” in the lower margin
19 x 15 ins ( 48.3 x 38.1 cms ) ( sheet )

Auction Estimate: $1,000.00$800.00 - $1,000.00

Price Realized $720.00
Sale date: February 27th 2024

Private Collection, Ottawa

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Bill Ronald Reid
(1920 - 1998)

Born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1920, Bill Reid was a Haida metalsmith, carver, and printmaker. Reid’s father was German-Scots-American, and his mother was Haida. He proclaimed that he was raised with little knowledge of his aboriginal ancestry, and it was not until adulthood that he realized his mother was Haida and he was related to generations of artists who lived on Haida Gwaii. Upon learning this, Reid contacted his maternal grandfather and his mother’s siblings to learn of their shared heritage.

Inspired by the Haida Gwaii, and the work of his maternal uncle, Charles Edenshaw, Reid was interested in pursuing goldsmithing as a career. He decided to attend the Ryerson Institute of Technology in Toronto from 1948-1950 to study goldsmithing. Reid apprenticed at the Platinum Art Company of Toronto after finishing the program at Ryerson. After university and his apprenticeship, Reid then moved from Toronto to Vancouver in 1951. Reid started his own jewelry workshop after moving to Vancouver. Here, he used his knowledge of both European and Haida jewelry found in museums, as well as his education in Toronto to make jewelry for his clients. Eventually, his knowledge of Haida culture and analyzation of Haida jewelry allowed Reid to become an expert of Haida design. His research linked traditional Haida culture to twentieth century art. In 1958, Reid was commissioned to re-create a section of a Haida village from the nineteenth century at the University of British Columbia. The project included two traditional Haida houses, seven totem poles, and other cedar carvings. Throughout the 1960s, Reid worked on commissions from institutions, corporations, and private individuals. Reid attended the Central School of Design in London in the late 1960s, and then settled in Montreal, where he began to create miniature sculptures.

However, Reid is most well-known for the large works he produced late in his life, such as The Raven and the First Men and Loo Taa. His projects helped create changes in the relationships between Haida and Canadian politics and culture. As an artist, Reid’s works have promoted northern design tradition, and bridged the generational divide in artists on the Northwest Coast. Not just an artist, however, Reid was a powerful public speaker and writer who argued against destructive ecological practices in British Columbia.

Literature Sources:
Joel Martineau, “Autoethnography and Material Culture: The Case of Bill Reid,” University of Hawai’i Press 24, no. 1, Winter 2001, pages 242-258.
Martine Reid, “Bill Reid,” Oxford University Press, Grove Art Online, 2003

We extend our thanks to Danie Klein, York University graduate student in art history, for writing and contributing this artist biography.