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Blackwood’s Bonavista Bay

February 15th, 2011

Wesleyville, Bonavista Bay
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 House

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
99/948

Bragg’s Island, Bonavista Bay
“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.

David Blackwood, Vigil on Bragg’s Island

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
99/931

  • Les Cosman

    I think Blackwood’s works are absolutely MARVELOUS both in the artistic talent ittakes to produce & in showing us life in Newfoundland.

  • elena

    I am not sure about the bone chilling cold being worse than GTA.