Who was Bill Reid?

Bill Reid's journey

Middle Years

Photo: Bill Reid and Doug Cranmer carving a mortuary pole at Totem Park UBC 1961

Bill Reid and Doug Cranmer carving the frontal board of a Haida Mortuary Pole
Totem Park, UBC
Vancouver, BC
UBC Historical Archives, UBC 3/3/1280

Photo: Dogfish mortuary pole carved by Bill Reid and Doug Cranmer at UBC Totem Park c. 1961

Dogfish Mortuary Pole
Carved with assistant Doug Cranmer (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Totem Park, UBC, Vancouver, BC
c. 1961
Wood, polychrome
Collection of the UBC Museum of Anthropology
MOA #50032/b, 2115/4
Photo: Dr. George MacDonald

1958-1962: (age 38-42)
In 1958, Bill Reid left the CBC to accept an invitation from Harry Hawthorn to recreate a section of a Haida village on the UBC campus.

In 1962, with Kwakwaka’wakw assistant Douglas Cranmer, he completed two houses and seven poles for the Haida village project at UBC. During this time, he was briefly married to his second wife, Ella Gunn.

1966-68: (age 46-48)
In 1966, he completed a series of eight drawings for the book Raven’s Cry, by Christie Harris.

Reid was invited to collaborate as an Aboriginal consulting curator with Wilson Duff, Bill Holm and Doris Shadbolt, on “The Arts of the Raven,” a major Northwest Coast art exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, celebrating Canada’s centennial.

Responsible for material selection, he requested the 19th century bent corner box he had seen illustrated in Franz Boas’ Primitive Art (1927: 276, fig.287b), which had been painted with great virtuosity by an anonymous artist. He wanted to examine closely this “magnificent, monumental, challenging work.” (Reid, 2000: 158). A few years earlier he had made a small lidded silver chest and engraved it with the same designs (1964).

1968: (age 48)
Reid finished carving the laminated cedar screen now referred to as “The Farewell Screen,” before leaving BC for London, England on a senior Canada Council fellowship to study museum collections in Europe. The screen was commissioned by the BC Provincial Museum in Victoria.

He worked for a time at the Central School of Design, London, to refine his jewelry-making skills.

1969: (age 49)
He moved to Montreal and established a jewelry workshop where he completed “The Milky Way,” the gold and diamond necklace which he had conceived and begun designing in London. He remained based in Montreal for four years.

Photo: Bill Reid with bentwood box “Master of the Black Field No.1,” artist unknown 1967

Bill Reid with the "Master of the Black Field No.1," 1967
Work shown: Bentwood box (“Master of the Black Field No.1”)
Artist unknown
c. 1865?
Bought by George Emmons on the Chilkat River, Alaska, in the 1880s
Red cedar, polychrome
45 x 35 x 36 cm
American Museum of Natural History (19/1233)
Photo #433180 E91-5 25-179 courtesy The Province
Photo: Ross Kenward / The Province

Photo: Bill Reid's cedar screen carved on both sides with design of intertwined mythic figures

Bill Reid
Carved Cedar Screen
Also known as "The Farewell Screen"
Red cedar, laminated, carved on both sides
2.1 m x 1.9 m x 14.6 cm
Design of intertwined figures
Collection of the Royal BC Museum, Victoria
Image RBCM 16639 courtesy Royal BC Museum