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Basil Blackshaw, H.R.H.A. (b. 1932)

The Last Walk (Morning)

Basil Blackshaw, H.R.H.A. (b. 1932)
The Last Walk (Morning)
oil on canvas
40 x 48 in. (101.6 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 1992.
B. Ferran (ed.), Basil Blackshaw - Painter, Belfast, 1995, p. 119, pl. 74, illustrated and illustrated on the front cover.
E. Mallie (ed.), Blackshaw, Belfast, 2003, p. 242, pl. 75, illustrated.
Belfast, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Basil Blackshaw - Painter: Tour 1995-1998, 1995-1998, touring exhibition.
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Lot Essay

The irony attaching to this work is that the actual painting itself of an ageing man shuffling along with a stick as his energetic little dog races ahead has no symbolic importance. Symbolism doesn't fit in to Blackshaw's artistic world in any meaningful way. Picture making, marks, lines, light are all at the heart of what he does over and above anything else. The Blackshaw however we know today in his mid-seventies may well somewhat resemble the character portrayed in this work but nothing could be further from the artist's mind when he decided to make the painting. In fact, it was the marks on the hillside of Colin Mountain and in the sky, which were the driver for the work at all. Those marks were enough to inform Blackshaw's desire to paint this picture. The figure of the man and dog were secondary to the thinking of the artist.
Of this particular painting Elliott Sherman wrote: 'The Last Walk best epitomises how Blackshaw's strength of observation has come to be realised in pared-down figures, rich yet subtle washes of colour jolted by patches of vivid hues, lusty brushwork and pictorial dynamics that encapsulate the thematic content. The main figure is sketchily defined by an occasional emphasis of line denoting a hat brim, sleeve, cane. It's a ghost of a man, really. The effect is emphasised by his rendering in greys and whites undercast with the background washes of colours both earthy and bloody. A slight inclination gives him the barest forward motion dramatically contrasting with his scampering dog, which runs ahead, barely contained within the canvas. Across the top, the brushwork forms an arc that ends in gold. Whether a hill or the trajectory of life burning out in a blaze of energy like a shooting star, this gesture gives us a sense that the end of a journey lies just ahead'. While Elliott Sherman feels free to make this interpretation about the arc as a backdrop to the old man we now know that in fact this arc is merely Blackshaw's interpretation of Colin Mountain, a mountain with which he is extremely familiar.

Eamonn Mallie, biographer of Basil Blackshaw.

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