Late N.L. artist David Blackwood remembered at event at Art Gallery of Ontario

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Julian Cox, deputy director and chief curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario, says Newfoundland's David Blackwood created one of the most extraordinary bodies of printmaking by any Canadian artist. (Darryl Dinn/CBC - image credit)
Julian Cox, deputy director and chief curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario, says Newfoundland's David Blackwood created one of the most extraordinary bodies of printmaking by any Canadian artist. (Darryl Dinn/CBC - image credit)
Darryl Dinn/CBC
Darryl Dinn/CBC

One of the largest art museums in North America paid tribute to the late David Blackwood last week, as the Newfoundland artist's creative works were put on display for a one-day only event at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Julian Cox, deputy director and chief curator, says the AGO is fortunate to have the most important collection of Blackwood's prints anywhere in Canada. He said Blackwood's relationship with the City of Toronto and the gallery dates back to 1959 when the artist registered at the Ontario College of Art and Design.

"He spent a lot of his time off classes in the galleries here at the AGO, which at that 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 really, as a young aspiring artist, began."

Cox said what Blackwood created over the five decades to follow was one of the most extraordinary bodies of printmaking by any Canadian artist.

Blackwood was born and raised in Wesleyville on Newfoundland's north coast but spent the majority of his adulthood based out of Ontario. He died July 2 at his home in Port Hope, Ont. He was 80 years old.

Darryl Dinn/CBC
Darryl Dinn/CBC

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

"So we have an extraordinary collection that shows in great depth his achievement as a printmaker, and first and foremost, his sort of love affair with the province in which he was born and raised," said Cox.

"We also have his papers and archives, so that means many dozens of sketchbooks, drawings, preparatory drawings and also a lot of the books and library items that 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 inspired earlier exhibitions focused on Newfoundland and Labrador, despite being over 2,000 kilometres away.

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

Darryl Dinn/CBC
Darryl Dinn/CBC

"We really are the destination for the study of and the appreciation of the art of David Blackwood," he said.

"It's not just an extraordinary contribution to the Art Gallery of Ontario and the province of Ontario, but Canada as a country. One of our deep commitments is to collect and preserve the work of Canada's most important artists and David Blackwood truly fits into that category."

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

Given Blackwood's death, Cox said the AGO wanted to honour him with the free viewing to his collection.

"We're sort of contemplating other projects that we can do with his body of work in the future in order to appropriately memorialize his contribution to Canadian art," he said.

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

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