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Celebration of an artist who's one of our own; walking and painting on moors influenced a lifetime's work.


A HUDDERSFIELD-born artist who became renowned as one of Britain's finest landscape painters has an exhibition on show in his home town.

Dr David Blackburn MBE, of Crosland Moor, spent his early years walking and painting on the moors near Huddersfield, and that experience influenced a lifetime of art.

An only child and a single man, he died in March 2016 at the age of 76.

Now an exhibition of his work - entitled: David Blackburn: Works from the Studio Estate - is on display at Huddersfield Art Gallery until June 1. Blackburn initially studied textile design at Huddersfield School of Art before enrolling at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London.

While his peers at the RCA, who included David Hockney and R B Kitaj, were focussing on pop art and abstract expressionism, Blackburn embraced landscape painting.

At the RCA he encountered the Austrian Jewish emigre artist Gerhart Frankl, who became his mentor. Frankl encouraged Blackburn to work in the challenging medium of pastel, often mixed with charcoal and other media.

His degree show caught the attention of Sir Kenneth Clark, who purchased several drawings and became an advocate for his work, later saying: "I don't know any artist to whom I can compare him.

"He is not a landscape painter, not an abstractionist in the ordinary sense but a painter of metamorphosis."

After graduation, Blackburn taught at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He found the outback so contrasting to European landscape that it completely freed him as an artist.

Describing the effect of Australia on his work, he said: "I think it's Paradise. At first it was difficult to come to terms with. I couldn't understand how one could draw where there was no apparent foreground, middle distance and background - only space."

In 1989, Blackburn returned to live in Huddersfield. He said at the time: "It's what I know - the hills and valleys, the history, the mix of urban and rural, old and new: the sheer texture of the place."

In the late 1990s, Blackburn was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease but he continued to create works in the studio of his terraced house, and exhibited his work internationally until 2008. Blackburn was also remembered as a mentor. He nurtured and encouraged a number of young local artists including the painter Maxwell Doig, who has selected the artworks for this exhibition.

Doig said: "On show are works from the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, from early chalk drawings like Three Studies for an Apocalypse (1967), through to works such as Blue Forest - New South Wales (1995).

"Perhaps most striking, looking at all the works together, is an intensity which is consistent throughout. Through this intense colour and light there is a sense of joy and wonder which is reminiscent of the glow of a Samuel Palmer drawing or an early Graham Sutherland etching.

"Both artists were part of the English visionary romantic landscape tradition to which David's work belongs."

Kirklees Council Cabinet member Graham Turner said: "Kirklees has a fantastic and diverse cultural offer, with so much to experience across our towns and villages.

"It's even more exciting to see one of our very own celebrated for his amazing achievements in the art world and the impact his work had on others. It's important we celebrate the creative talent that comes from Kirklees and I urge everyone to come along and see this exciting exhibition for yourself."

The exhibition is presented in association with Messum's, London.

Perhaps the most striking, looking at all the works together, is an intensity which is consistent throughout. Through this intense colour and light there is a sense of joy... Maxwell Doig, artist


Huddersfield artist David Blackburn's exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery ANDY CATCHPOOL
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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