Collecting David Blackwoood

Collecting David Blackwoood

By Mark Skeffington

David Blackwood is perhaps Canada’s best known visual storyteller, with an unique and unmistakable body of artwork that spans 50 years.

The Newfoundland-born master printmaker’s art hangs in hundreds of homes from coast to coast, as well as in galleries big and small, from the Bonavista North Museum & Gallery in his birth town of Wesleyville to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

The Port Hope, Ontario-based artist is best known for his limited edition etchings, which typically portray chapters in the lives of Newfoundlanders from decades ago: man versus a harsh environment (the sea, the winter, icebergs); sea captains, sailors, seabird hunters and fishermen; life and tragedies in an outport; resettlement and moving houses (over ice, over water); birth and death; and traditional celebrations such as mummering.

These etchings, numbering in the hundreds and featured in numerous art exhibits and three books, are David Blackwood’s calling card, his trademark, his legacy.

He has created impressive art in other mediums – egg tempera paintings similar to his etchings and watercolours depicting Newfoundland landscapes and, more recently, flowers – but it is his etchings that are most sought after.

Collectors inside and outside Newfoundland seek out particular titles to add to their walls, sometimes waiting for years to obtain the one they want.

David Blackwood’s majestic whale works remain the most highly coveted and sought after, with Fire Down the Labrador being the holy grail: many collectors seek it but few obtain it.

Why are art collectors so attracted to David Blackwood’s work?

FineArtCollector talked to four collectors of his etchings from across Canada about their fascination.

What attracts you to the works of David Blackwood?

“David Blackwood combines striking and unexpected detail with an almost spiritual energy and animism. His etchings are stark and sombre but use light to wonderful and surprising effect. . . . They are uniquely Canadian but also truly universal.” – K.B.S., Ontario

“The attraction of the works of David Blackwood for me is the reminder of what life was like in rural Newfoundland in the past. I grew up in a small Newfoundland town and Blackwood’s images capture the essence (both scenic and emotional) of how things were – especially the winter images.” – David Bussey, Newfoundland

“David Blackwood’s art actually speaks to me. The stories told are vivid and real. He completely captures the moment.” – M.S., Ontario

“We can understand his pictures. His pictures tell a story which he lived and a way of life which is no longer. It’s a story of Canada, to which you can relate.” – B.H., British Columbia

Why do you collect David Blackwood’s artwork?

“Number one: I like it! Number two: He is a brilliant storyteller as much as an artist. Number three: It is truly ‘All Canadian’ art. No mistake about the origins.” – M.S., Ontario

“I collect his works because of this (a reminder of life in rural Newfoundland), their beauty and, of course, I like them as well.” – David Bussey, Newfoundland.

“They are good investments, if you are looking at that sort of thing and it’s an important dimension. But far more important: they hold my interest over time. I never tire of looking at them and I repeatedly find new perspectives and areas of interest. Collectively, there is something of mythology around his work where commonplace life events and people become something remarkable.” – K.B.S., Ontario

What is your favourite David Blackwood piece?

“My favourite piece that I have is Captain Jesse Winsor Home from the Icefields. This triptych print has amazing detail.” [Centre panel shown above] – David Bussey, Newfoundland.

Captain Jesse Winsor Home from the Icefields.” – M.S., Ontario

“All of the Blackwoods we have give us pleasure, therefore it is difficult to pick one as the favourite.” – B.H., British Columbia

“I don’t believe that I can narrow it down to a single favourite. I favour many of the works that deal with Bragg’s Island and many of the Mummer series I find are exceptional.” – K.B.S., Ontario

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