(1946 - Present)
Robert Davidson was born on November 4, 1946 in his mother’s home village of Hydaburg, Alaska. Early in 1947, the family, consisting of his parents Claude and Vivian, his older sister Arlene, and Robert, moved back by boat to his father’s village of Old Masset, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia. Here Robert and his sister were joined by two more siblings, Arnold and Reginald.
Encouraged by his father, Claude Davidson, and his grandfather, Robert Davidson Sr., both of whom were accomplished carvers, Robert began carving argillite (a slate stone indigenous to Haida Gwaii) at the age of thirteen. In 1965, he moved to Vancouver to complete his final year of high school. By this time he had a good familiarity with the medium, often selling his carvings to supplement his income. In 1966, Robert began his apprenticeship with master artist Bill Reid, studying Haida engraving and design forms.
Over the years, Robert has produced an internationally acclaimed body of artwork, including a number of large totem poles, masks and bronze sculptures, as well as many highly acclaimed graphic silk screen prints. His major commissions include a totem pole for the Maclean-Hunter building in Toronto and three totem poles and a bronze sculpture for the PepsiCo International Sculpture Park in Purchase, New York. He has been in many group and solo exhibitions, including a major retrospective, Eagle of the Dawn at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1993 and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1994. In addition to being the subject of numerous books, films and articles, Robert is also the author of an award winning book entitled Eagle of the Dawn – The Art of Robert Davidson (published by Douglas & McIntyre).
In March of 1995, Robert received the National Aboriginal Award for Art and Culture. He holds honorary degrees from the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He has also been appointed to the Order of British Columbia. The Order recognizes those persons who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in a field of endeavour benefiting the people of British Columbia. In 1996, he also received the prestigious Order of Canada.
As the first issue in the Royal Canadian Mint’s four-coin set “Native Cultures and Traditions” to promote contemporary First Nations art, the Royal Canadian Mint produced a $200 Gold Coin incorporating Robert’s design of the Haida “Raven Bringing Light to the World.” The coin has been made into a pendant as part of their PURE 9999 collection of fine jewelry.
Today, Robert Davidson is one of Canada’s most important contemporary artists. He is a master carver of totem poles and masks, and works in a variety of other media as a printmaker, painter and jeweler. He is also a leading figure in the renaissance of Haida art and culture. In 2010, he was the recipient of the Governor General's award for Career Achievement in Visual Arts and continues to create exquisite works of art that push the envelope, yet are firmly rooted in tradition.
Robert currently lives in the Vancouver area and often returns to Haida Gwaii to spend time with his family to refresh his spirits.