Fall 2016 - 4th Session Live auction
Lot # 262
William Ronald (Bill) Reid
1920 - 1998 Canadian
Haida Bear Canoe (Model) and Haida Bear Paddle
carved and painted cedar wood sculpture 1984
12 1/2 x 92 1/2 x 16 1/2 in 31.8 x 234.9 x 41.9cm
Elizabeth Nichol's Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Peter and Joanne Brown Collection, Vancouver, acquired from the above in 1984
Doris Shadbolt, Bill Reid, second edition, 1998, page 112
Bill McLennan, Curator Emeriti, Pacific Northwest, Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, personal communication, 2008
Martine J. Reid, editor, Bill Reid and the Haida Canoe, 2011, page 76, and Lootaas and Haida Bear Canoe Model (unpainted) reproduced pages 74 - 75
Haida artist Bill Reid expressed awe for the traditional Haida canoe and what it represents culturally, symbolically and aesthetically. Hence, the Haida canoe played a major role within Reid’s artistic development and practice. He was convinced the canoe played a primordial role in the evolution of Northwest Coast art. Reid saw the canoe (which he associated with the formline ovoid) as the source of distinctive Haida and other northern Northwest Coast art forms. He declared, “Western art starts with the figure; West Coast Indian art starts with the canoe.”
Reid’s insight into, and passion for, the quintessential Haida canoe compelled him to experiment with canoe making, culminating in the building of Lootaas (Wave Eater), a 17 metre (50-foot) ocean-going canoe commissioned by the Bank of BC for Expo 86. Reid considered Lootaas, the first canoe of that size to be created in nearly a century, to be one of his greatest accomplishments.
Reid’s monumental sculptures took several years to evolve from their conception to small-scale maquettes to completion, and Lootaas was no exception. After methodically studying several canoes in museums and unfinished canoes in the forests of Haida Gwaii, reading critically the literature on Northern-style canoes and listening to native elders’ memories of canoe making, Reid worked out the design and construction challenges of Lootaas by making a series of sketches and smaller canoes before he and his team built the vessel.
In his Granville Island studio in 1984, Reid carved this 2.5 metre (8 ¼-foot) Haida canoe, patterned after a similar canoe that was on loan to the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology from the National Museum of Man (now the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, QC). He referred to his canoe model as “a grandchild-size” Haida canoe. This elegant model Haida canoe was carved (but not steamed) from red cedar, which Reid called “that perfect substance for all material and aesthetic needs.” By the time the canoe was finished, however, the grandchild had outgrown the little boat, so it was painted with a traditional Haida Bear design and sold to Peter Brown, which provided support for the larger canoe project.
Later, in 1985, Reid and his assistants (Guujaaw, Simon Dick and William Robertson) constructed a 7.5 metre (24 ½-foot) cedar inshore canoe using this critical 2.5 metre (8 ¼-foot) Haida canoe as a model to work out design proportions, profiling and hull thickness. Coordinated by UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, with the financial assistance of Expo 86, this project gave Reid critical experience for his construction of Lootaas.
MODEL CANOE STYLE AND DECORATION
This classic Northern-style Haida canoe exhibits a high prow and vertical cutwater, features that are essential for throwing off and tracking safely through high waves. It also features flaring sides and a rounded bottom for buoyancy and speed.
The exterior bow and stern are painted in classic Haida formline style, including U-shaped and ovoid design elements of red and black representations of a Bear. Traditional black formline delineates the Bear’s head, shoulder and front paws in the bow and the rear end and legs in the stern. The main body of the canoe is painted traditional black. The inside hull is painted black and the gunwales red; the two carved thwart-seats for four paddlers and one steersman’s seat are red.
PADDLE STYLE AND DECORATION
The paddle is elongated and pointed. (Historically Haida paddles were pointed, so they could quickly change from propulsion tools to weapons for close fighting.) The front is painted with a design composed of traditional black and red abstract and figurative design elements. The design depicts a Bear head with black formline contour and eyes, red nose and mouth showing the sharp teeth of a Grizzly, while its body is distributed along the whole length of the blade, with prominent black front paws facing forward. The Bear’s body consists of two black U-shapes filled with two inner red split U-shapes connecting to its back legs and paws, with profiled claws in black. The back of the paddle has a handwritten inscription by Reid: “Design: Bill Reid” (the artist’s signature); “Realization: Skundel” as well as the inscription "8.89." Skundel was a Haida apprentice of Reid’s during the creation of Lootaas.
Please note: the painted cedar paddle measures 64 x 6 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches.
We thank Dr. Martine Reid, who is currently working on the Bill Reid catalogue raisonné and is a member of the Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association, for contributing the above essay.
Accompanying this lot is a letter from the artist detailing the authentic canoe making process.
Estimate: $250,000 ~ $350,000 CAD
Sold For: $295,000.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)