Late Newfoundland artist David Blackwood commemorated in event at Art Gallery of Ontario

Julian Cox, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario, says David Blackwood of Newfoundland has created one of the most extraordinary sets of prints of any Canadian artist. (Darryl Dinn/CBC)

One of North America’s largest art museums paid tribute to the late David Blackwood last week as the Newfoundland artist’s creative works were on display for a day-long event at the Museum of Ontario Fine Arts.

Julian Cox, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, says the AGO is blessed with the largest collection of Blackwood prints in Canada. He said Blackwood’s relationship with the city of Toronto and the gallery dates back to 1959, when the artist enrolled at the Ontario College of Art and Design.

“He spent a lot of his free time in the galleries here at the AGO, which at the time was called the Art Gallery of Toronto,” Cox told CBC News in a recent interview.

“He was deeply inspired by our collection here and that’s where his journey as a budding young artist really began.”

Cox said what Blackwood created over the next five decades was one of the most extraordinary sets of prints by any Canadian artist.

Blackwood was born and raised in Wesleyville on the north coast of Newfoundland, but spent most of his adult life in Ontario. He died July 2 at his home in Port Hope, Ontario. He was 80 years old.

Engraving by David Blackwood, titled Uncle Sam Kelloway's Place in Wesleyville.
Engraving by David Blackwood, titled Uncle Sam Kelloway’s Place in Wesleyville. (Darryl Dinn/CBC)

In 1999 Blackwood made a great contribution to the gallery. He donated over 200 prints to the AGO.

“So we have an extraordinary collection that shows in depth his accomplishments as a printmaker and, above all, his kind of love affair with the province in which he was born and raised,” Cox said.

“We also have his papers and archives, which means several dozen sketchbooks, drawings, preparatory drawings and also many books and library items which were a deep source of passion and inspiration for his art. “

A long-standing relationship

Cox said the AGO’s long-term relationship with Blackwood has inspired past exhibits focused on Newfoundland and Labrador, despite being more than 2,000 kilometers away.

He said Blackwood also helped shape the gallery’s archives.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the largest galleries in North America. (Darryl Dinn/CBC)

“We truly are the destination for the study and appreciation of the art of David Blackwood,” he said.

“This is not only an extraordinary contribution to the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Province of Ontario, but to Canada as a country. One of our deepest commitments is to collect and preserve works by Canada’s most important artists and David Blackwood really fits into that category.”

Cox said Blackwood was an intense and meticulous student of art history, drawing inspiration from the biggest names in craft history to perfect his own works.

In light of Blackwood’s death, Cox said the AGO wanted to honor him with free viewing of his collection.

“We’re looking at sort of other projects that we can do with his work in the future to appropriately commemorate his contribution to Canadian art,” he said.

“Our goal is always to preserve and make accessible the work of our great artists.”

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