CPE CSGA CSPWC OSA RCA
Fire Down on the Labrador
etching and aquatint on paper
signed, titled, editioned 40/50 and dated 1980
31 1/2 x 19 3/4 in, 80 x 50.2 cm
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000
Sold for: $85,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Private Collection, Ontario
William Gough, The Art of David Blackwood, 1988, reproduced front cover
William Gough, David Blackwood, 2001, reproduced page 108
Katharine Lochnan, Black Ice: David Blackwood, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2011, Prints of Newfoundland, graphite sketches, inking proof, working proof and final print reproduced, unpaginated
David Blackwood was born in 1941 in the outport community of Wesleyville, Newfoundland to a seafaring family in which his father and grandfather were both ship captains. Fishing was a way of life in Newfoundland and Blackwood's choice to become an artist was an unusual one in his small town.
Blackwood studied at the Ontario College of Art from 1959 to 1963, and his teachers included J.W.G. Macdonald and Carl Schaefer. It was here that he learned the print-making techniques and processes he has used throughout his career. It was also here that he decided to make art about his heritage - the stories of Newfoundland. His chronicles of the sea, the land, and the life of the people there, expressed through his etchings and paintings, are extraordinary. At 23 years old one of his etchings was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada. In 2000, 36 years later, the Art Gallery of Ontario created the Blackwood Research Centre and acquired a major collection of his prints. Also an educator, he taught at Trinity College School from 1963 to 1988.
Blackwood has had over 90 solo exhibitions, including a major retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2011: Black Ice: David Blackwood, Prints of Newfoundland. His work is in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada and the Vancouver Art Gallery, as well as in major private and public collections around the world, including the collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (The Royal Collection, Windsor Castle) and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. In 1976, the National Film Board produced a documentary film on him, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
Blackwood received the Order of Canada in 1993, and in 2003 was named Honorary Chairman of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the first practicing artist to be so honoured. Blackwood currently resides in Port Hope, Ontario, as well as maintaining a studio in Wesleyville.
This compelling image is Blackwood’s best known etching and his most valuable print at auction. Historically, Newfoundlanders used to travel every year to Labrador to fish, curing their catch in encampments and bringing it home at the end of the season. Although it was a source of life with its rich fish stocks, this annual adventure was fraught with danger. This image is an epic visual narrative documenting the tragic loss of a schooner, with the men escaping in a small boat into a dangerous sea full of ice – yet all around them is the beauty of a velvet starry night and the drama of the sculpted forms of icebergs. In contrast to the dilemma of the men, the whale floats in the deep, far away from the troubles of fragile man on the surface of its vast world. With its exquisite detail, deft capturing of the motion of fire and sea foam and cross section of sky to ocean deep, this print is a tour de force of Blackwood’s etching ability.
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