Speck, Henry, Chief (1908 - 1971)

Culture/Community

Tlawitsis (Kalugwis)

Biography

Chief Henry Speck worked as a fisherman, dancer, and song writer. He became chief of the Tlawitsis Nation when he succeeded his father. In the early 1960s he became artistic director of the Kwakiutl House Project in Alert Bay, where he also pursued his artistic skills; he taught carving and dancing in Alert Bay. "His unique approach to Kwakwaka'wakw design opened a new range of possibilities for a generation of artists" (Ayotte, Gallery of Tribal Art, 1995). He was commissioned by Gyula Mayer, a Vancouver art and antiques dealer, who was interested in collecting Northwest Coast pieces for his gallery; it was Mayer who encouraged Speck to paint with watercolours. Many of these paintings by Speck and other artists at the time were sold to private collectors, museums, or were collected by Mayer. "...Speck's paintings speak to the viewer with a clarity and sense of immediacy. A striking aspect of Speck's work is its ability to invoke a three-dimensional "space" within the confines of a limited design field" (Ayotte, 1995).