Artwork by David Lloyd Blackwood,  Fire Down on the Labrador

David Blackwood
Fire Down on the Labrador

colour etching and aquatint
signed, titled, dated 1980 and inscribed “Artist’s Proof 3/10 Ed. 50” in the lower margin
31.75 x 19.75 ins ( 80.6 x 50.2 cms ) ( subject )

Auction Estimate: $80,000.00$60,000.00 - $80,000.00

Price Realized $84,000.00
Sale date: June 8th 2023

Private Collection, British Columbia
David Blackwood was born in Wesleyville, on the coast of Bonavista Bay, in Newfoundland. Following his studies at the Ontario College of Art, Blackwood launched his decades-long career. The National Gallery of Canada purchased etchings by the artist when he was only 23 years old. Awarded the Order of Canada in 1993, Blackwood is now celebrated as one of the country’s most acclaimed printmakers.

Blackwood’s most famous etching “Fire Down on the Labrador” depicts a terrifying maritime disaster, with a ship aflame and the crew fleeing aboard a small lifeboat. However the picture is utterly dominated by the enormous whale submerged in the icy waters and visible to the viewer but not to the fishermen. Here, the human scene is dwarfed by immense, unfathomable forces of nature. Blackwood has based this work on a narrative with personal roots. Raised in a seafaring Newfoundland family, both the artist’s father and grandfather were ship captains. Blackwood was very aware of the grave threat to every mariner presented by the risk of a grease fire in the gallery of a schooner. The crew could be faced with the worst possible scenario, being forced to abandon ship, and left to the cold isolation of a brutal environment.

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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