Ed Blackburn, 1940 – 2022

by Rachael Blackburn Cozad August 23, 2022
Ed Blackburn, seated in front of a painting in progress.

Ed Blackburn, seated in front of a painting in progress. Courtesy of Rachael Blackburn Cozad.

A significant presence in the art world since the 1970s, Edward (Ed) Madison Blackburn III died peacefully of natural causes on July 31, 2022. He was preceded in death by his wife, the artist Linda Blackburn, on January 2, 2022.

Painting of a man sitting in a car and holding a radio. He is speaking into the radio, and wearing a suit and sunglasses. The work is entirely in grayscale.

Ed Blackburn (b. 1940), “Painting No. 8,” 1986, oil on canvas, 78 x 100 inches

Mr. Blackburn was primarily known as a painter, but he also worked as a printmaker, writer, poet, musician, and filmmaker. While he is most closely associated with the Photorealism and pop art movements, and his work frequently employed images from various types of popular media (including many pieces which draw on film stills), overall his work defies categorization. 

Throughout his career, Mr. Blackburn additionally produced paintings based on biblical themes, which became some of his most significant works. His image of the story Jesus and the Money Changers is in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art; Road to Emmaus is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Cain and Abel is in the collection of the Kemper Museum of Kansas City, Missouri. 

A painting by Ed Blackburn of the biblical story "Jesus and the Money Changers."

Ed Blackburn, “Jesus and the Money Changers,” 1988, oil on canvas, 62 1/8 x 83 inches. Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund © 1988 Ed Blackburn.

In a 1990 ARTFORUM article, Dallas writer and collector Charles Dee Mitchell wrote about Mr. Blackburn’s biblical pieces: “Blackburn does not tackle major theological mysteries in these paintings. He forgoes the nativity, crucifixion, and resurrection in favor of those stories that are childhood favorites. He gives us David and Goliath, 1987–88, Cain and Abel, 1988, and Joseph and the Pharaoh’s Dream, 1989, rendering them in a bright, coloring-book style. This approach seems calculated to return us to when we first learned the stories, only to remind us of the distance that now separates us from that time.”

A black and white photograph of Linda and Ed Blackburn sitting on a dark couch inside a home. Both sit in a relaxed style with legs outstretched and crossed. Photograph by Gay Block.

Gay Block, “Ed and Linda Blackburn, Fort Worth, Texas,” 1984, gelatin silver print. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Gift of the Texas Historical Foundation with support from a major grant from the DuPont Company and Conoco, its energy subsidiary, and assistance from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts © Gay Block

Born in 1940 in Amarillo, Mr. Blackburn attended The University of Texas at Austin where he received a BFA in Painting (1962) and met his future wife, Linda. In 1965, he earned his MA in Painting from the University of California, Berkeley, and was reunited with Linda who was in the same graduate program. After graduating, the couple moved to Fort Worth where they both taught painting at the art school at the Fort Worth Art Center, which would later become The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. During the 1970s Mr. Blackburn established a studio he referred to as the Main Street Image Company in downtown Fort Worth. There, he frequently collaborated with studio mates and fellow Texas artists Vernon Fisher and Jim Malone.

A graphic novel style acrylic painting by Ed and Linda Blackburn. The painting appears to show a man falling or being pushed off a building at night time. Text on a banner in the foreground reads, "Neo German."

Ray Madison (Ed and Linda Blackburn), “Neo German,” 1996, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches.

Mr. and Mrs. Blackburn collaborated on many projects, including a group of paintings produced in the 1990s broadly known as The Adventures of Eddie Leon, which they made under the pseudonym Ray Madison. In 2007, they produced a feature-length film, The Lonesome Utrillo, in collaboration with the artist Brian Fridge.

Mr. Blackburn’s paintings are in significant public collections, including: the Amarillo Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Mint Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Nerman Museum of Art, the Old Jail Art Center, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Tyler Museum of Art. The artist also created a floor mosaic, in collaboration with his wife, which is permanently installed at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Ed and Linda Blackburn’s work continues to be represented in Fort Worth by Artspace111.

Mr. Blackburn was a mentor and friend to many, and his presence in the state’s art community will be deeply missed. He taught painting and drawing at the University of North Texas in Denton for over 20 years. 

One of his students, New York- and Houston-based artist Howard Sherman received his MFA from UNT in 2006. He told Glasstire about Mr. Blackburn: “It’s rare, but I think that we all have a few times in our lives when things feel like they truly line up. My experience as one of Ed Blackburn’s students was one of them. I took several classes with him and I always left his critiques filled with enthusiasm, charging back into my studio. His thoughtful approach and careful insight were contagious. We remained friends for quite some time after graduation, often meeting for lunch when I passed through Fort Worth. In short — he taught me how to see in a different way. Profound.”

During his long career, Mr. Blackburn was awarded two National Endowment for the Arts awards for painting, and in 2006 he was awarded the Distinguished Texas Artist Award from the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. As both a prolific artist and a longtime educator, Mr. Blackburn leaves a lasting legacy on the North Texas art scene and beyond.


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Hills Snyder August 23, 2022 - 08:44

Thank you Rachael Blackburn Cozad. I was always a fan of Ed’s work, but came to love him during the time he spent in San Antonio in the nineties. There were a few lovely hangs, including a trip together to see a Cowboys game which lasted over four hours in double overtime, ending after midnight. Thank you Ed.

Matthew Bourbon August 23, 2022 - 11:40

I will miss Ed. Thank you for the thoughtful discussion about his history and his work. I am grateful that he was my colleague while he was at UNT. My sincere condolences.

Ken Little August 23, 2022 - 15:19

He was an amazing artist and human being! One of my hero’s. I will miss him.

Linda Lighton August 23, 2022 - 19:57

Lovely tribute, great painter

Patrick Kelly August 23, 2022 - 20:18

I was pulled into the Blackburn orbit in the mid-1980s. Both Ed and Linda were influential artists and mentors to me and many others for decades. Ed always offered encouraging and constructive criticism when I requested and needed it. Along with many others, I admired his art work and felt Ed was always subtly ahead of the game with each new phase even better than the last.

Ed and Linda were gentle souls who were always kind and genuinely sincere when talking to you. I had the good fortune and honor to organize solo shows for both. During the process I discovered how undemanding and appreciative they were for everything you did for them—they made YOU feel special.

I’m glad I was drawn into that orbit to meet the two wonderful people at the center.

Susan Freudenheim August 24, 2022 - 11:55

I always loved both Linda and Ed, for their art, which was amazing, but also for their deep friendships. An amazing couple and a huge loss for us all. Sending love to Rachael.

Ann Graham August 24, 2022 - 13:48

The art world is a sadder place without Ed.

Neil unterseher August 12, 2023 - 20:30

My best friends throughout college. Days. We were a great trio. They were my art friends and the most devoted couple. Their work was terrific.

Ann August 27, 2022 - 12:24

Dearest Eddie B., we’ll miss you forever, love, Ann & X2

Derrell Chandler December 31, 2022 - 12:53

I had the privilege of seeing Ed’s “doodling” at Sam Houston Jr. High School — and later at Amarillo High School in Amarillo. Greatness was to follow.

Marcus McKenzie August 1, 2023 - 10:53

Ed just popped into my memories, as my favorite instructor from my time at UNT, 1999-2001, figure drawing. I thought I’d give it a search to check in on him, and am saddened to find this news.

He was a powerful yet relaxed guide to art and drawing. His instruction was attentive, inspiring, directly objective, and served with a bit of mystery. I had a great time and learned immensely – namely what an inherently true artist looks like – via Ed. Thank you Ed.

R.I.P., good sir.


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