Reflected Landscape With Black Wall, 1988

This intricate pastel drawing resembles the undulating hills of Blackburn’s native Yorkshire beneath a bruised evening sky, reflected in mirror smooth water. Blackburn’s mastery of this notoriously unpredictable medium allows him to create subtle tonal changes and his signature harsh linear compositions (in this case reminiscent of the sprawling dry stone walls that traverse West Yorkshire) which combine and contrast to form textures and abstract patterns that possibly hint at Blackburn’s background in textile design at the RCA.

David Blackburn: Works from the Studio Estate museum exhibition was at the Huddersfield Art Gallery, summer 2019.


David Blackburn

David Blackburn MBE (1939-2016) was a British artist who worked almost exclusively in the pastels and was noted for his highly evocative, semi-abstracted depictions of Yorkshire landscapes.

Born in Huddersfield, Blackburn studied at the Huddersfield School of Art and then the Royal College of Art, London. After leaving college, Blackburn travelled to Germany, France and Italy for a year before accepting a position at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. During his time in Australia, he was deeply affected by the work of Fred Williams, who helped him to develop an understanding of space away from the “European concept of foreground, middle distance and background”, which he increasingly regarded as irrelevant.

In 1981, Blackburn took up a position as a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. At this time he became influenced by the vertical perspectives of the American cityscape, and began to experiment with electronic imagery and collage techniques. However, after this short period of experimentation, Blackburn realised that his “inner life was based in the natural world, not the city”, and subsequently embarked on a complex and long-running sequence of transcendent pastel drawings known as the ‘Landscape Vision’ series.

Blackburn’s work is now held in public and private collections all over the world, including the British Museum, the Art Museum of South Australia and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.