December 15, 1946: Death of Duluth Artist David Ericson

On this day in Duluth in 1945, internationally renown painter and Duluth native David Ericson died in the Zenith City from injuries suffered when he was struck by a car outside his home ten days earlier. Born in Sweden in 1869, Axel David Eriksson came to Duluth when he was just four years old, and his father changed the family name to Ericson at that time. They first lived in the heart of Finn Town along St. Croix Avenue. When he was nine years old, an infection cost David his leg. As he recovered he spent hours drawing, developing his love of and talent for fine art. At 17 he left for New York to study at the Art Student’s League, supported himself designing jewelry for Tiffany & Co. and as a magazine illustrator. He traveled to Paris in 1890 and studied under McNeill Whistler (most famous for painting a portrait of his mother). In 1902 he returned to Duluth, later moving to New York and Paris, but returning to the U.S. at the outbreak of World War I. He would move between Duluth, Europe, and the artists’ colony at Provincetown for the rest of his life, settling in his home town after his wife died in 1943 to paint and teach classes at the Duluth Art Institute. His work includes six large murals for Hibbing High School and a series of altar paintings for Duluth’s St. George Serbian Orthodox Church; the Tweed Museum of Art has a collection of his smaller works. Read Peter Spooner’s expanded biography of Ericson here.

Knute Heldner’s 1931 painting of fellow Duluth painter and Swedish immigrant David Ericson. In 1931, Ericson and Heldner painted reciprocal portraits in France. Ericson had been to Europe five or six times, including extensive stays in France. Not counting his birth, it was Heldner’s first time there. (Image: Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth).