First-ever survey of Haida artist Charles Edenshaw debuts at Vancouver Art Gallery

Charles Edenshaw argillite platter, pre-1894 Photo Credit: The Field Museum, Chicago

Charles Edenshaw argillite platter, pre-1894 Photo Credit: The Field Museum, Chicago

Charles Edenshaw is one of Canada’s Northwest Coast art icons and one of Haida Gwaii’s most widely distributed artists. For the first time a survey of over 200 examples of Edenshaw’s work are displayed in one place – the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Entitled simply, Charles Edenshaw, the exhibition runs from October 26 to February 2 and presents art from public, private and family collections from across the globe.

Edenshaw was born in 1839 in Skidegate on the east coast of Graham Island in the archipelago of Haida Gwaii. Edenshaw was known as one of the islands’ strongest silver, argillite (a rare black stone found in the area) and wood carvers and went by the Haida name Da.a xiigang.

Bentwood chest by Charles Edenshaw, late 19th century Photo credit: Canadian Museum of Civilization

Bentwood chest by Charles Edenshaw, late 19th century Photo credit: Canadian Museum of Civilization

Edenshaw was also one of the first Haida artists to be commissioned by organizations such as the American Museum of Natural History.

For centuries, the Haida people and their culture persevered threats by missionaries, colonialism, and small pox epidemics. Edenshaw is credited as one of the artists who helped preserve Haida traditional formline art during these tumultuous times by creating a market for Haida work amongst visitors and non-Haidas alike.

From the pristine shores of the beautiful, green-fringed islands of Haida Gwaii many famous artists and Edenshaw descendents have emerged: Reg Davidson, Robert Davidson, James Hart, Lisa Hageman Yahgulaanas, Isabel Rorick and Michael Nicoll Yahgulaanas. Edenshaw also mentored another well-known Haida artist: Bill Reid.

Robert Davidson, is a Haida artist struck by the Charles Edenshaw’s artistic legacy.

“Edenshaw left a legacy through his work and we are blessed that he committed his whole life to creating art for us to enjoy and study,” said Davidson, one of the Haida advisors to the exhibit. “The magic of Edenshaw’s work embodies millennia of development of Haida art. One can relearn the magic and integrity of the history of the art form by studying his work.”

The exhibit is split into five sections: Haida traditions, Narrative, Style, New Forms and Legacies. While Edenshaw’s work will make up the majority of the exhibit, art from his contemporaries and artists influenced are also integrated.

The exhibit was curated by Robin K. Wright, Director of the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art and Daina Augaitis, Chief Curator/Associate Director with the guidance of Haida advisors: James Hart and Robert Davidson.

Over the course of the Charles Edenshaw exhibit, there will be a symposiums, special talks and tours hosted by the advisors and curators. Check the Vancouver Art Gallery events calendar for more info.

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One Response to First-ever survey of Haida artist Charles Edenshaw debuts at Vancouver Art Gallery

  1. Art

    Very impressive works of Art! Must see at Vancouver Art Gallery!

    Born 1839, not 1939 as you article typo.

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