Robert Davidson is one of Canada’s most respected and important contemporary artists. A renowned Haida master carver of totem poles and masks who 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. Robert Davidson is best known as an impeccable craftsman whose creative and personal interpretations of traditional Haida form is unparalleled.
Robert Charles Davidson was born November 4, 1946 in Hydaburg Alaska. His Haida name is Guud San Glans/Eagle of The Dawn. He moved with his family to the Massett on Haida Gwai (Queen Charlotte Islands) in 1947 and lived there until 1965 when he moved to Vancouver to complete his education at Point Grey Secondary School. It was there that he first learned the fundamentals of silk-screening.
In 1966 he met Bill Reid and soon after, began an eighteen month apprenticeship that launched his career as an artist. Through Reid, he met anthropologist Wilson Duff, artist Bill Holm, and learned much about the Haida people and their art. In 1967 he enrolled in the Vancouver School of Art, a place he credits for developing his drawing and design skills.
Robert Davidson was surrounded by fine carving from an early age as both his father, Claude Davidson and grandfather, Robert Davidson Sr. were respected carvers in Massett. His great grandfather was the famed Haida carver Charles Edenshaw. Robert began carving at the age of 13 when his father insisted that he carry on the family artistic tradition. Since that time, he has continued to explore the carved form in a variety of traditional and non-traditional media including bronze and aluminum. He became the consummate Haida artist whose strong rhythms and personal style is recognized and sought-after the world over.
For more than fifty years, Robert Davidson has worked as an artist and has produced an internationally acclaimed body of work. His work is found in a number of important private and public collections including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles and the Artists for Kids Gallery in North Vancouver. He has also received many honours for his accomplishments.
In 1995 he received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his contribution to First Nations art and culture. He holds honorary degrees from the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver. He has received the Order of British Columbia and in 1996 was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada.
In 2010, British Columbia’s most prestigious award – the Audain Foundation for the Visual Arts “Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts” (now in its 7th year) was presented to Robert Davidson at the Vancouver Art Gallery on May 12th. In addition, Robert was the winner of the 2010 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
In 2011, Robert received the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts Award in Visual and Media Art. RCA is a honourary organization of over 790 established professional artists and designers across Canada. Members are nominated and elected by their peers, since 1880, and come to represent Canada’s most distinguished artists.
In 2022, Robert was awarded the Order of Canada for his continued excellence as an artist and as an
an advocate of Haida culture. The Order of Canada is the highest level of distinction in the Canadian Honours System. Any Canadian may be appointed a Member (CM), Officer (OC), or Companion (CC) of the Order in recognition of outstanding achievements or exemplary contributions in any sector of Canadian society.