Artwork by David Lloyd Blackwood,  Loss of the Flora Nickerson

David Blackwood
Loss of the Flora Nickerson

colour etching and aquatint
signed, titled, dated 1993 and inscribed AP IX/X in the lower margin
31.75 x 19.75 ins ( 80.6 x 50.2 cms )

Auction Estimate: $12,000.00$9,000.00 - $12,000.00

Price Realized $16,100.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

Private Collection, Toronto
In the artist's signature grand narrative style, Blackwood's aquatint etching “Loss of the Flora Nickerson” poses existential questions of one's scope and scale within their environment. The artist's sharp focus on Newfoundland's pre-Confederate history and culture, positions his body of work in a unique space within the Canadian art historical dialogue. Often looking back to his childhood growing up in the small but bustling harbour town of Wesleyville, Blackwood couples his experiences with longstanding community histories, myths and stories to capture the quintessential Newfoundland way of life in an era of independence, self-reliance and resilience.

The rich monochromatic blue pigments of this work highlight a dramatic tone to the story unfolding. The division of the image field to give importance to the central whale figures and reduce the ship crew to more supporting roles within the composition, emphasizes the artist's devotion and exploration of the harsh Newfoundland environment. In the distance, the Flora Nickerson flounders to the unforgiving waters as its crew and passengers row to safety in their row boat. The sorrow of the loss is engrained in the solemn down-turned expressions of the men aboard the life boat, as a father protectively holds his young boy. This timeless gesture of compassion is not lost within the composition as we see a similar expression of protection in the central whales below. In both instances, a parent encircles their young to instill a sense of safety and security. This subtle mirroring is an interesting comment on not just human compassion and relationships, but speaks to a larger theme of interconnectivity between humans and their environment and the fragility of one's very existence. The sublime power of the composition harnesses a drama of Greek myth proportions, visually highlighting the very notion of one's mortality within a moment of loss, compassion and comfort.

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David Lloyd Blackwood
(1941 - 2022) OSA, RCA, Order of Canada

Born in Wesleyville, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, on of the major sealing towns of that province, he is a descendant of a long line of master mariners. Blackwood was awarded a Government of Newfoundland Centennial scholarship to study at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto under Carl Schaefer, John Alfsen, H.W.G. MacDonald and Frederick Hagan. He went on to become Art Master at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario. In 1969, Blackwood became the first artist-in-residence at Erindale College, University of Toronto, Mississauga.

David Blackwood uses his background on the East coast of Canada to create grande visual narratives reflecting both the landscape and culture of the province with an emphasis on combining the history, legends, and myths of settlement and developing culture of Newfoundland. He is best-known for his colour etchings with aquatint. His work was used to provide illustrations for Farley Mowat’s “Wake of the Great Sealers”, a collection of stories about the heroic Newfoundlanders who braved the icy seas of the treacherous North Atlantic in search of seals. Driven by hard times at home it was the only hope many of the men had of making money to feed their families. Men perished when their ships went down during wintry gales. Blackwood, a native of a sealing town himself, and a descendent of fishing skippers and sealing captains, provides Mowat’s stirring text with equally stirring and poetic figurative drawings and prints.

Blackwood was awarded the Order of Canada in 1993 in recognition of his work contributing to and preserving the cultural life and heritage of Canada through his artwork. At the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Blackwood Research Centre within the Morin Gelber Print and Drawing Centre was created after a major acquisition of the artists works in 2000. The museum also elected Blackwood as its honourary Chairman in 2003, the first practicing artist to hold this position. In the same year, he was awarded the Order of Ontario.

As one of Canada's most celebrated print-makers, David Blackwood's works are part of significant Canadian and international private and corporate collections including The Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. Blackwood currently lives in Port Hope while maintaining a studio in Wesleyville, Newfoundland.

Sources: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977