Charles Edenshaw

Ottawa - March 5, 2014

The first survey exhibition of one of the most innovative artists
working on the west coast at the turn of the 20th century.
At the National Gallery of Canada
March 7 to May 25, 2014

Charles Edenshaw was recognized in his time as an outstanding Haida artist and remains an iconic figure in Northwest Coast art. Working in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (1829-1920), he was an exceptional carver of wood, silver and argillite, combining traditional Haida design with an innovative and elegant personal style, and raising Northwest Coast art to new heights of sophistication.

On view from March 7 to May 25, 2014, at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibition Charles Edenshaw marks the first major survey of Edenshaw’s work, featuring 80 of his best artworks selected from his exceptional carvings in wood, argillite and silver and gathered from public and private collections throughout North America. TD Bank Group is the Presenting Sponsor of the Charles Edenshaw exhibition at the NGC.

“We are very proud to present this exhibition, which offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the great elegance of Haida artist Charles Edenshaw’s masterful works. Edenshaw is a key figure in Canadian art,” said NGC Director and CEO Marc Mayer.

“This exhibition is important in many ways,” said Haida Chief and exhibition advisor James Hart. “All the pieces that Charles created carry the respect of his people, ancestors and his family. To remain connected to both this line of important Haida cultural prerogatives and the changing ways of our future, we must carry on, in the Haida Way.”

The exhibition presents a wide range of objects that Edenshaw created during his lifetime, from traditional objects that he made for family members to elaborately carved model poles, platters and other objects produced for trade with Europeans.

 “The arts play a critical role in representing our history and culture in the local community as well as across the country,” said Senior Vice President, Business Banking, TD Bank Group, Chris Dyrda. “Exhibits like this offer access to knowledge and inspiration – and as a supporter of the arts, we are thrilled to help bring Charles Edenshaw’s masterpieces to this gallery for residents and visitors alike.”  

A career overview over four themes
Examining his remarkable aesthetic achievements, the exhibition focuses on four predominant themes: Edenshaw’s advancement of traditional formline design; his ability to animate Haida stories in his carving; his interest in new materials and visual ideas that led to innovative cultural hybrids; and, finally, his deep-seated belief in Haida traditions, which gave him the agility and fortitude to thrive as a Haida artist during oppressive colonial rule.

“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 Robert Davidson. “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 exhibition is made possible with support from The Audain Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Government of Canada through the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage, and Mr. David Aisenstat.

Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and 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 Haida advisors: Robert Davidson and James Hart. The presentation in Ottawa was coordinated by National Gallery of Canada Curator of Indigenous Art, Greg Hill.

The exhibition is complemented by a fully-illustrated book Charles Edenshaw, co-published by the Vancouver Art Gallery and Black Dog Publishing (London). The book establishes the foundation of Edenshaw’s practice through essays and interviews with contemporary Haida artists and descendants as well as his far-reaching influence and artistic achievements. Writers and storytellers include Daina Augaitis, Stacey Brown, Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Nika Collison, Robert Davidson, Mandy Ginson, Guujaw, Bill McLennan/Karen Duffek, James Hart, Bill Holm, Alan Hoover, Aldona Jonaitis, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson and Robin K. Wright. Available in English only, for $43.99 + taxes at the NGC Bookstore and online at

Meet the Curator
Friday, March 7 at 12 pm. Free with Gallery admission. Visit the exhibition Charles Edenshaw with Associate Curator Robin Wright, Endowed Professor of Art History at the University of Washington and Director of the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art. English with bilingual question period.

Conversation with James Hart and Robin Wright
Saturday, March 8 at 2 pm. James Hart is one of the Northwest Coast’s most accomplished artists and a descendant of Charles Edenshaw. Associate Curator Robin Wright is the Endowed Professor of Art History at the University of Washington and Director of the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art. Event related to the Charles Edenshaw Exhibition. In the Auditorium. English with bilingual question period.  No charge.

NGC Magazine, the National Gallery of Canada’s online magazine is a frequently updated source of information on the Canadian art world and the goings-on at the National Gallery of Canada.  Correspondents from across the country provide engaging and exclusive content on historical and contemporary art in Canada. This online magazine includes exclusive interviews with artists. This month, read the article Charles Edenshaw: The Raven, The Sea Bear and Other Stories.

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Tickets. Adults: $12. Seniors and full-time students: $10 Youth (12-19): $6. Families (two adults and three youth): $24. Admission is free for children under the age of 12 and for Members. Includes admission to the NGC Collection.

The NGC is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Closed Mondays. Exceptions: Open Mondays March 10 and April 21 on Easter Monday. Closed April 18 on Good Friday. For more information call 613-990-1985 or 1-800-319-ARTS.

About the Vancouver Art Gallery
Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery to see major exhibitions of works by the world’s leading contemporary artists and history’s greatest masters. Founded in 1931, the Gallery is Western Canada’s largest art museum, and home to a spectacular collection of more than 10,722 artworks by Canadian and international artists. For more information, please visit

About the National Gallery of Canada 
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains an extensive touring art exhibition programme. For more information, visit

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