Artwork by David Lloyd Blackwood,  Barbour’s Seabird Leaving Newtown (Bonavista Bay)

David Blackwood
Barbour’s Seabird Leaving Newtown (Bonavista Bay)

oil tempera on board
signed and dated 2003 lower right; signed and titled on the reverse
48 x 60 ins ( 121.9 x 152.4 cms )

Auction Estimate: $100,000.00$80,000.00 - $100,000.00

Price Realized $96,000.00
Sale date: June 8th 2023

Abozzo Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Heffel, auction, Toronto, 20 November 2019, lot 4
Private Collection, Toronto
Essential to David Blackwood’s practice is the indelible imprint of human history and narrative on the landscape of Newfoundland. 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.

In this painting, Blackwood has depicted Neptune II, a three-masted schooner built in 1920 and owned by Captain Job Kean Barbour, a merchant from Newtown. The Barbours were considered one of the most important seafaring families. Fourteen of the descendants of Benjamin Barbour became captains and ten of those were sealing captains. The family also established and maintained a business in Newtown until the early 1990s. As a result, the Barbour Family was vital to the economic well-being of the community.

Neptune II is painted in full sail, a striking portrait of a strong and resilient craft, “Barbour’s Seabird”. The rich red of the sails is as a result of soaking the material in a preservative made by boiling the bark of conifer. This artwork invokes a sense of the sublime with the swirling clouds of the sky surrounding the schooner, which is depicted from an intimate vantage point, the boat and striking red sails completely filling the composition. The iceberg in the distance acts as a metaphor for the resiliency of seafaring Newfoundlanders against the power of nature.

The Neptune II was featured in another of Blackwood’s works, a 1979 etching of Captain Job Kean Barbour, which includes an image of the schooner. In 1935, the Neptune II was caught in a severe storm and was blown off course. Sadly, the vessel was abandoned in the North Atlantic Ocean. Blackwood’s painting stands as a testament to the schooner, the Barbour Family and the rugged way of life of Newfoundlanders.

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

Born in Wesleyville, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, one 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.

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