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 James Henderson Boyd  (1928 - 2002)

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada      Known for: printmaking, sculpture, murals, painting, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
James Henderson Boyd  RCA, CSGA (1928 – 2002)

A distinguished painter, printmaker, sculptor, muralist and educator, Professor James Henderson Boyd was born in Ottawa, Ontario and died in Ottawa, Ontario. (1)  Below is his (edited) obituary from the Ottawa Citizen:

Throughout his career, Jim Boyd, produced prints by compressing paint, metal and paper, but the impression he left in person was a combustive result of vibrancy, vision and spontaneity.

Boyd, 73, a printmaker, teacher and "etching press-jockey," died Tuesday, January 16, 2002. His death, say those who respected and admired his work, has left a gaping hole in Ottawa's artistic community.

A printmaking instructor at the Ottawa Art School and the University of Ottawa, Boyd also left a bright impression on young artists.

"He worked an etching plate the way a jazz musician works a solo," said Blair Sharpe, a former student who remembered Boyd as a man who refused to paint by numbers.

"It was improvisation all the way"

A painter and sculptor trained at New York's Art Students League* and the National Academy of Design*, Boyd was best known for developing unique printmaking techniques during the 1960s. After applying paint to metal plates, traditional prints are repeatedly pressed onto paper, canvas, or other materials to create a series of identical images.

Most printmakers exploit the economic benefit of mass production, but Boyd rejected repetition and made only one edition of each print.

"He'd take an etching plate and re-work it 900 different ways," remembers Sharpe.  "He was beyond being a virtuoso."

He remembers one piece that dissatisfied Boyd, who then quickly set it on fire and let it burn until the edges browned and curled.

When his students asked why, he responded, "because that's what it needed."

At his first solo exhibit in Toronto in 1961, for which he achieved critical and popular acclaim, Boyd met fellow artist Richard Gorman, who would become a life-long friend.

"I walked into the show and saw these very experimental high-relief prints," said Gorman. He was embossing right on the metal and no one had ever done that before."

He said his friend refused to wear gloves while working, smearing paint with his fingers because "that's the way Rembrandt did it."

While Boyd respected the artistic process of his predecessors, he forged an individual style that re-drew printmaking rules.

"He was always trying something new, and something way out on the edge," said Gorman.  "he wasn't into fashion."

He was an enormously fun person to be around," said Gorman.  "You never knew what to expect.  Described by friends as a "beacon in a city of blandness" the artist also leaves six works in the National Gallery of Canada's Print Collection.

He created a visual language all his own," said Gorman.  His whole life was a work of Art."

"A Beacon in a City of Blandness", by Siri Agrell, Ottawa Citizen, January 16, 2002

(1) Source: Canadian Heritage Information Network*.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Submitted by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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