Basil Blackshaw (1932-2016)

Large landscape (c. late-1960s)

Oil on paper on canvas

Private Collection

Basil Blackshaw was born in Glengormley, Co. Antrim but raised in Boardmills, Co. Down. After leaving Methodist College Belfast in 1948 he studied at the Belfast College of Art under Romeo Toogood where, in 1950, he was a recipient of the award for the most outstanding students in the forty-eighth annual exhibition of the Ulster Arts Club. The following year, Blackshaw was awarded a scholarship by the Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) to study in Paris. Upon returning to Northern Ireland, he taught part-time at the Belfast School of Art and designed sets for the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

Blackshaw became known for his early expressionist style, painting Irish country scenes of horses, landscapes and farm buildings but is recognised as a versatile practitioner whose work changed in style several times throughout his career. His first solo exhibition was held at the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery (Ulster Museum) in 1955 and he also exhibited at the CEMA gallery, Belfast the following year and again in 1961. By the 1970s, he had developed himself as an exceptional and original colourist, transforming his figures into iconic forms. As well as his scenes of nature, he was also an accomplished portraitist, producing paintings of the playwright Brian Friel, Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and the poet Michael Longley.

In 1995, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland organised a major retrospective of his work, which travelled from Belfast to Dublin and Cork as well as across the United States.

Blackshaw’s work often expressed his strong sense of connection to certain familiar places. In the 1960s he began a long series of paintings looking across the Lagan Valley towards Colin Mountain, in which he experimented with the analysis of space and structure, apparently drawing inspiration from Cézanne’s repeated return to the motif of Montagne Sainte-Victoire. This painting probably dates from the late 1960s and shows Blackshaw’s sensitivity towards gesture and mark-making, as well as a typically spare use of paint.