Bill Reid

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William (Bill) Ronald Reid, OBC (12 January 1920 – 13 March 1998) was a Canadian artist whose works included jewelry, sculpture, screen-printing, and painting.[1] His work is notable for being featured on the Canadian $20 banknote.



Reid was born in Victoria, British Columbia to an American father of Scottish-German descent[2] and a mother from the Haida, one of the First Nations of the Pacific coast. He developed a keen interest in Haida art while working as a radio announcer in Toronto, where he also studied jewelry making, having first learnt about his heritage from his maternal grandfather, who had himself been trained by Charles Edenshaw, a Haida artist of great renown.[3]

In 1951, he returned to Vancouver and became greatly interested in the works of Edenshaw, working to understand the symbolism of his work, much of which had been lost along with the many Haida traditions. 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.

Working in the traditional forms and modern media (usually gold, silver and argillite), he began by making jewelry before branching into larger sculptures in bronze, red cedar and Nootka Cypress (yellow cedar) usually portraying figures, animals, and scenes from folklore, as well as assisting in the preservation of the accompanying mythology.

His most popular works are three large bronze sculptures, two depicting a canoe filled with human and animal figures: one black, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, at the Canadian Embassy, Washington, D.C., in the United States; and one green, The Jade Canoe, at Vancouver International Airport, in British Columbia; and the third, Chief of the Undersea World, depicting a breaching orca, at the Vancouver Aquarium. Plaster casts of these sculptures exist at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, Canada.

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