fibreglass canoe and acrylic on board
signed Sharon Hitchcock and dated 1988
19 x 10 x 129 1/4 in, 48.3 x 25.4 x 328.3 cm
Estimate: $50,000 - $60,000 CAD
Preview at: Heffel Vancouver
Collection of Leona Lattimer, Vancouver, acquired 1989-1990
Private Collection, Vancouver
This work was painted by Haida artist Sharon Hitchcock, who followed the example of Florence Davidson, the first woman known to have painted a Haida canoe in 1936. Sharon Hitchcock also painted the designs on Loo Taas for Bill Reid.
The canoe is approaching a Haida village beach front, the background of which represents four houses, each adorned with greyish house frontal totem poles. The canoe is navigating choppy blue-grey waters with waves coming from behind and dark cloud and rain falling on the horizon. The bow is painted with the representations of a mythic creatures. The smaller creature on the long prow is probably a Killer Whale, as a crescent-shaped blowhole seems to be present as well as features that could be a fin and tail flukes. The larger figure on the bow just behind the cutwater of the canoe has features of a Wolf but could also be a Sea Bear or Wasgo, which, if the latter is chasing its prey, the Killer Whale. The black, fiberglass shell of the boat has been painted brown to simulate the wood of Western red cedar tree. The painted decorations on the hull are bold. Thick formlines perhaps represent a Raven holding something in its beak, an Eagle, and a third long-headed creature with many teeth which could be interpreted as a Sea Wolf or Wasgo without a tail.
The large wave approaching the stern suggests that there is a strong “following sea” that makes waves coming past the stern propel the canoe forward. Since no paddlers are shown in the canoe, the following sea and perhaps the wind are the only forces moving the canoe towards shore.
During his career as a Haida artist, Bill Reid yearned to be involved with canoes, and Loo Taas was one of his preferred creations. The creation of Loo Taas in Haida Gwaii for Expo 86 with the participation of Haida people proved that ocean-going canoes had become a means for cultural healing and regeneration on the Coast. Obviously, Bill Reid was proud and happy of this achievement and not ready to abandon his favourite playthings—canoes, or canoe-themed related works—and he intended to enjoy them a bit longer. And, this apparently playful work reminds us of how much Bill Reid loved North West Coast canoes. It shows that his dialogue with canoes was far from being over yet.
However, this fanciful rendering of a canoe voyage without passengers could be interpreted as an allegory for a last voyage, perhaps even a prescient vision of Bill Reid’s final journey to interment of his ashes at Tanu in 1998.
Note: The Bill Reid Estate owns the maquette for this canoe and another similar half-shell of an undecorated, solid black canoe.
We thank Dr. Martine Reid, CEO, William Reid Ltd. and Bill Reid Estate, for contributing the above essay.
1. Doris Shadbolt, Bill Reid, 1986
2. Martin Reid (ed.), Bill Reid and the Haida Canoe, 2011
3. Gerald McMaster, Iljuwas: Bill Reid Life & Work by Gerald McMaster, 2021
Leona Lattimer was not only one of the leading gallerists in Vancouver, she was also instrumental in building the Northwest Coast Indigenous art market. In 1976, she was named manager of the Museum of Vancouver giftshop and quickly turned it into the highest-grossing giftshop in Canada. She outgrew her position at the museum by the early Eighties and opened the Leona Lattimer Gallery in 1986, just in time for Expo 86. Her gallery quickly became the prime destination in the Pacific Northwest for authentic, collectible Indigenous art.
Leona passed away on Saturday June 25th, 2022 in Vancouver, BC. Leona and her husband David Lattimer lived all over BC, including many small communities where they made long-lasting friendships. Through her relationships with Indigenous artists throughout BC, she was able help create the thriving Northwest Coast Indigenous art market we know today. The hundreds of artists and thousands of customers Leona met and worked with were her true passion and were what helped form the lifelong friendships she had.
Over the decades, Leona collected pieces herself. These were exceptional artworks that both met her discriminating standards and spoke to her refined aesthetic taste. Works from the collection of Leona Lattimer were acquired from the artists directly. To own an artwork from the Leona Lattimer Collection is to own a piece of Vancouver history.
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