Blackwood, David (b. 1941) O.S.A., R.C.A., Order of Canada

Bio

Born in Newfoundland, David Blackwood uses his background a Newfoundlander and son of a sea caption to create grand visual narratives. These narratives reflect both the landscape and culture with an emphasis on combining the history, legends, and myths of Newfoundland into a print that tells a story. He is best-known for his colour etchings with aquatint. Blackwood was awarded a Government of Newfoundland Centennial scholarship to study at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and went on to become Art Master at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario. In 1969, Blackwood became the first artist-in-residence at Erindale College, University of Toronto, Mississauga.
Blackwood was awarded the Order of Canada in 1993 in recognition of his work contributing to and preserving the cultural life and heritage of Canada through his artwork. At the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Blackwood Research Centre within the Morin Gelber Print and Drawing Centre was created after a major acquisition of the artists works in 2000. The museum also elected Blackwood as its honourary Chairman in 2003, the first practicing artist to hold this position.

As one of Canada’s most celebrated print-makers, David Blackwood’s works are part of significant Canadian and international private and corporate collections including The Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. Blackwood currently lives in Port Hope while maintaining a studio in Wesleyville, Newfoundland.

The Burning of the S.S. Diana is from The Lost Party Series one of the largest thematically linked series of Canadian prints in Canadian history.

Artist Website

Works of Art

Additional Information


The Burning of the S.S. Diana
A triptych, signed, titled and dated 1968 A/P

Colour etching and aquatint
56 by 175.5 cm.
22 by 69 in.

Provenance

Private Collection, Toronto

Public Collections

Art Gallery of Windsor Ontario
The Royal Collection Trust, London, United Kingdom
Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Literature

William Gough, David Blackwood, Master Printmaker, Toronto, 2001, pp. 136-137, for The Burning of the S.S. Diana, reproduced in colour

Farley Mowat, Wake of the Great Sealers, Prints and Drawings by David Blackwood, Toronto, 1973, p. 86 for an account of the S.S. Diana and p. 87 for The Burning of the S.S. Diana, reproduced in colour

The Story of the S.S. Diana

The Diana began her life in 1869 in Dundee, Scotland, as a whaling ship known as Hector. Each February, she was sent from Scotland to St. John’s Newfoundland in order to participate in the seal fishery. This lasted until May, at which point she would discharge the seals and sealers in St. John’s and head northwards to Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, cruising the icy waters for bowhead whales. When the autumnal gales began, she would return home to Dundee, weary from her travels. Though overworked, she was kept in good condition by her owners while at rest.

In 1892 she was bought by a St. John’s firm, renamed Diana, and given over completely to sealing. She spent a few months on the hard waters, and for the remainder of the year was neglected, receiving cursory attention and minimal repairs. By 1922, she was fifty-three years old and had fallen into such disrepair that everyone, including her owners, knew that she was unfit to sail. Despite this, and partially due to lack of other viable ships, Diana set sail one fateful day in 1922 and caught fire,

Diana’s crew had mutinied, and burned their own ship. Rumours of this circulated throughout St. John’s and the island, but it wasn’t until George Allan England, an American journalist, published “Vikings of the Ice” in 1924 that any witness described what happened. England sailed to the ice on March 8th, 1922 aboard the Terra Nova. On the 16th, news came by wireless that the Diana was ‘in an awful fudge,’ jammed and unable to move, with her propeller shaft broken and her bows ‘bet in.'”

A few days later, he continued, “Mid-morning brought news that the crippled Diana was
beginning to have trouble with her crew and that mutiny threatened. A few of her hunters were still ‘working scattered seals on the sheet’ [of ice] in which, with broken tail shaft, she lay imprisoned; but most were beginning to demand relief from other ships.”

And then, on March 24th, “An urgent message from the crippled Diana drove out all of the discussion. The Diana reported dire distress and demanded that some ship stand by and rescue her rebellious crew.”

The end came quickly: “Night brought news of the final scene in the crippled Diana’s career, a message that her crew had had abandoned her in a sinking condition, and burned her with all her thousands of sculps [seal pelts] still aboard.” She sank that night.

The ship’s crew had left the ship, and were standing on the ice surrounding her. They wanted the seals — their season’s work — unloaded. The ship’s officers refused to do this.

David Blackwood’s depiction of the Burning of the S.S. Diana captures the reaction of the crew to the loss of the ship and their season’s work. While no boat is represented, the flames in the distance, red tones of the image, and onlooker’s accusatory faces allude to tragic nature of this event. Blackwood’s various images of sealers often reference the danger associated with this occupation; however Diana documents not just the natural threat of icy waters and foul weather, but the man-made threat of corruption and greed.

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