David Blackwood (Canadian, b.1941)  "Fire Down on the Labrador" 1980 etching and aquatint

David Blackwood (Canadian, b.1941) "Fire Down on the Labrador" 1980 etching and aquatint. Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, 1999 ©2001 David Blackwood

Black Ice: David Blackwood Prints of Newfoundland

February 5 to June 12, 2011


David Blackwood is one of Canada’s leading printmakers and most popular artists. This exhibition showcases some iconic works for the first time, revealing the richness of Blackwood’s imagination and his working methods.

Blackwood has been telling stories about Newfoundland in the form of epic visual narratives for 30 years. To bring this narrative to life, the exhibition will situate Blackwood’s prints in time and space by looking at the history of Newfoundland and the people who settled there. Blackwood explores the timeless theme of the struggle for survival between humans and nature in one of the most exposed and hostile environments on earth. He depicts a town and a centuries-old way of life that has disappeared. His dramas encapsulate class, gender and intergenerational issues that can only be understood in the context of the formation of the landscape, its natural resources, immigration and settlement, religious and political debate, economic and social conditions, and the environmental threat to the survival of traditional lifestyles.

He has created an iconography of Newfoundland which is as universal as it is personal, as mythic as it is rooted in reality, and as timeless as it is linked to specific events. This exhibition draws on childhood memories, dreams, superstitions, legends, the oral tradition, and the political realities of the Wesleyville community on Bonavista Bay where Blackwood was born and raised.



No subject has inspired Blackwood more than the isolated outport of Wesleyville on Bonavista Bay, where he was born and raised. While he now makes his home in Ontario, Blackwood returns to northeastern Newfoundland every year to work in his Wesleyville studio. Through his prints he keeps alive the memory of his hardy ancestors, the places where they lived and worked, and a way of life that all but disappeared after Confederation (1949) and resettlement. 

For more than a century, the settlers of this town (immigrants from the West of England) battled the Atlantic Ocean, struggling to make a living in the seal hunt and cod fishery. The violent storms, looming icebergs, bone-chilling cold and isolation that they encountered permeate Blackwood’s imagery.

David Blackwood, Hauling Job Sturges Home


Hauling Job Sturges House, 1979; etching and aquatint on wove paper, 43.9 x 88 cm
Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, Port Hope, Ontario, 1999


Bragg’s Island

“The Newfoundland that we knew is no longer there,” Blackwood once said. This comment is particularly relevant to the fishing outport of Bragg’s Island, where as a child he spent most of his summers with his maternal grandparents. He remembers Bragg’s Island fondly – the sense of community and the inhabitants’ self-reliance, confidence and industry. In the early 1950s, however, his world was shattered by the provincial government’s resettlement policies. The entire town was forcibly uprooted to join a community on the mainland, in part to provide them with better social services. In his prints Blackwood draws on memories, letters, photographs and even personal belongings to express this loss and to reclaim the Newfoundland of his youth. 

Vigil on Braggs Island, David Blackwood


Vigil on Bragg’s Island, 1973; etching and aquatint on wove paper, 61.8 x 92.1 cm
Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, Port Hope, Ontario, 1999


David Blackwood on Storytelling

Blackwood Ancestors

Blackwood on the Tradition of Mummering




Generously supported by

Salah Bachir & Jacob Yerex
John & Joyce Pollock
Samuel & Esther Sarick
An Anonymous Donor

Organized by

The Art Gallery of Ontario

Contemporary programming at the AGO is supported by

David Blackwood is represented by

Abbozzo Gallery

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