Reid, Bill (1920 - 1998)




William Ronald Reid (Q'adasru qiirawaay Raven Clan of T'anuu) was born in 1920 in Victoria, B.C. His mother, Sophie Gladstone, was from the Kaadaas gaah Kiiguwaay, Raven-Wolf Clan of T'anuu (Haida), but she was educated at the Coqualeetza Residential School. His father was an American of Scottish-German descent. At twenty Reid began his career in broadcasting, as a radio announcer. From 1948 to 1958 he worked for the CBC in Toronto and Vancouver. Also, while in his twenties, he decided to emulate his maternal grandfather, Charles Gladstone and become a silver and goldsmith. Gladstone was trained by Charles Edenshaw, a master Haida artist. In conjunction with his grandfather's training, Reid analyzed many pieces held in museum collections. He also trained in traditional European jewellery techniques in Toronto, Ontario and London, England and applied those techniques (eg. repousse) to Northwest Coast metal work. When Reid returned to the West Coast he began seriously to pursue Haida imagery in both jewelry and sculpture. His works, known for their superb craftsmanship, range from exquisite carvings in precious metals and argillite to monumental sculptures in bronze and cedar. They have been collected and exhibited all over the world. Some of his most acclaimed sculptures include The Raven and the First Men at the Museum of Anthropology, and The Spirit of Haida Gwaii (1991), castings of which are located at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Vancouver Airport. Other celebrated pieces include Chief of the Undersea World at the Vancouver Aquarium, and Lootaas (Wave Eater), a cedar canoe that has been shown in Paris, and is now at home in Haida Gwaii. Bill Reid was the first living artist to have his work displayed in the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, in an exhibition celebrating the works of ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. It can be said that Bill Reid's work forms a link between ancient and contemporary artistic styles, and was instrumental in the revitalization of the northern Northwest Coast artistic tradition. Reid received many awards in his lifetime, including the Canada Council Molson Award, the Bronfman Award for Excellence in Crafts, the Vancouver Lifetime Achievement Award, the Royal Bank Award for Outstanding Canadian Achievement, and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Lifetime Achievement. UBC awarded Bill Reid an Honorary degree in 1976 for his contribution to the cultural life of Canada. He died on March 13, 1998 after a 30-year battle with Parkinson's disease.