Eagle and salmon

I found this nice little drawing in an antique market in Hungerford yesterday. It’s by Henry Hunt, Canadian First Nations artist who lived on Vancouver Island (1923–85). I’m largely guessing here, but it looks like a decorative greetings card or souvenir that he might have produced as a cheap purchase for his art shop in Victoria in the 70s. It shows an eagle with a toothy salmon in its claws (a common spring sight in many parts of British Columbia), in the traditional style that Bill Holm described in his Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form (1965).

Henry Hunt was among a line of artists who did much to record and revive Kwakwaka’wakw art and culture in BC. His grandfather was George Hunt (1854–1933), a key figure in this field who provided the anthropologist Franz Boas with important material, collecting and recording huge quantities of artefacts and stories. His sons Richard Hunt, Stanley Hunt and Tony Hunt are also notable carvers and artists, and his daughter Shirley Ford is a button blanket maker; his grandsons Jason Hunt, Tony Hunt Jnr and Trevor Hunt, among others in the family, are continuing the tradition with carvings and paintings.

Henry became a principal carver at the BC Provincial Museum in Victoria, after apprenticeship with Arthur Shaunnesy and his father-in-law, Mungo Martin. Some prominent memorial poles are among his work, including one in Hertfordshire! This was apparently commissioned in the 1960s by a grateful lumberman from Berkhamsted, whose brother had been saved from starvation by the Kwakwaka’wakw community in Tahsis. It was erected at the timber mill in England in 1968, and now stands in a housing estate. There are around a dozen of these poles in Britain, striking pieces of art that often have fascinating stories attached as to how and why they were carved, and ended up here.

Here’s another of Henry Hunt’s drawings, an eagle and wildwoman (1973) from the Coghlan Art website.

All that from a card bought for a couple of quid!


2 thoughts on “Eagle and salmon

  1. We bought the large silkscreen Eagle and Salmon (#68 of 150) in Vancouver on a tourist trip in 1979 for about $75 and had it framed for about the same. You can’t get that much today. After a decade it became a bit harsh for display in a residence so we gave it to a local parish church. It is still up but that is probably because church types are too nice to throw out a gift. The only fact I can add is the salmon and eagle were considered family totems by Henry (or so we were told). I am writing to express the emotion that it is consoling to know that someone else can appreciate a piece that was our first and last attempt at art speculation.

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