Arthur Boyd

Arthur Boyd

Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd AC OBE (20 July 1920 – 24 April 1999) was a member of the prominent Boyd artistic dynasty in Australia, with many relatives being painters, sculptors, architects or other arts professionals. His sister Mary Boyd married John Perceval, and then Sidney Nolan, both artists. His wife Yvonne Boyd née Lennie, and son Jamie and daughters Polly and Lucy are also painters.

He was born at Murrumbeena, Victoria. Boyd had no formal training in painting and drawing however he studied with his grandfather Arthur Merric Boyd, the New Zealand born landscape painter and Merric Boyd, the Australian Sculptor and Studio Potter. He is represented in all Australian state galleries. Boyd is best known for his experimental and sometimes complex painting of figures and impressionist, pastoral landscapes.


His early paintings were portraits and of Port Phillip Bay created while he was an adolescent, living in the suburbs of Melbourne. He moved to the inner city where he was influenced by his contact with European refugees. Reflecting this move in the late 1930s, his work moved into a distinct period of depictions of fanciful characters in urban settings.

He produced several series of works, including a collection of 15 biblical paintings based on the teaching of his mother, Doris Boyd née Gough. Later he produced a tempera series about large areas of sky and land, called the Wimmera series.

In the 1940s he was a member of the Angry Penguins artistic and literary group. His best-known work is perhaps his Half caste bride series in the 1950s, which he did based on his experiences of having direct contact with Aborigines in Alice Springs in 1951. He represented Australia with Arthur Streeton at the Venice Biennale in 1958. He joined the Antipodeans Group in the Whitechapel gallery.

Avoiding the social issues raised in works such as Half Cast Child and feeling drawn to European styles of painting, Boyd moved permanently to Hampstead, London in 1960. The same year he held his first London exhibition. While here, Boyd entered another distinct period with his works themed around the idea of metamorphasis.

He started another well known series of works, Nebuchadnezzar in 1966. This series was a statement of the human condition and is often considered to be his most beautiful.

He returned to Australia in 1971, as one of Australia's most highly regarded artists. In 1978 he bought properties and settled permanently at Bundanon on the Shoalhaven River. He donated this 1100 hectare property to the people of Australia in 1993. His creations now focused on the primevial natural settings found in the Australian bush and in later years explored the interplay between human land use and natural wilderness. Boyd was enthralled by his position near the river and by the scale and moods of the valley landscape.

In 1975 he presented several thousand works to the National Gallery of Australia. In 1979, he was honoured with the Order of Australia. He represented Australia at the Venice Biennale again in May 2000; his painting "Dreaming Bridegroom I" (1957) sold for $957,000. Another painting of the Bride series, "Mourning Bride I" (1958) has sold for $833,000.

Career Highlights

*1958: Installation of sculpture at Olympic Swimming Pool, Melbourne, and represents Australia with Arthur Streeton at 1958 Venice Biennale
*1971: Awarded Creative Arts Fellowship at the Australian National University
*1975: Donates major gift to the National Gallery of Australia - Several thousand works including pastels, sculptures, ceramics, etchings, tapestries, paintings and drawings
*1978: ABC/BBC co-production "A Man of Two Worlds"
*1979: Awarded the Order of Australia (AO) for Service to Arts
*1982: Donates Tuscan villa for an Australia Council Artist-inresidence program, and Sandra McGrath's 'The Artist and the River' published by Bay Books
*1984: Commissioned to design a tapestry for the Reception Hall at the new Parliament House and 16 canvasses for the Foyer of the Victorian Arts Centre
*1986: "Arthur Boyd in the Landscape" a film by Don Featherstone films on London's Weekend Television's South Bank Shows, and Ursula Hoff's "The Art of Arthur Boyd" published
*1988: Represents Australia at the 43rd Venice Biennale with eight major works; commissioned to paint Earth and Fire for the cover of the 28th November Time magazine for a special issue dealing with environmental conservation in Australia; and receives award as Irish-Australian of the Year
*1990: Patricia Dobrez and Peter Herbst's "The Art of the Boyds" published by Bay Books
*1992: Awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)
*1993: Prime Minister Paul Keating announces the establishment of Bundanon Trust to accept Bundanon gift from Arthur on behalf of the Australian Nation. The gift includes a property for the establishment of artist-in-residence programmes and several thousand works of art from five generations of Boyds and other Australian artists
*1994: Donates copyright of all artwork and more property to Bundanon Trust, and "Arthur Boyd at Bundanon" published by Academy Editions
*1995: Prime Minister announces Arthur Boyd as Australian of the Year for his contribution to Australian art and his generosity to the Australian people
*1998: "Testament of a Painter" documentary by Don Bennetts shown on ABC TV. Australia Post Australian Legends Award for 1998. Arthur has a series of postage stamps produced with his photo and examples of his work. Australia Post awards the Australian Legend status to one Australian per year. ["Australians on Arthur Boyd" by Lisa Bowman published by Australia Post 1998 in association with Arthur Boyd.]


Boyd was a master at manipulating elements to express himself. He developed new techniques when he was still a teenager and later changed technique depending on his preferred style, media, location and what he was depicting.

He would often use loose strokes of thickly coated brushes. He applied paint with his fingers and palm because it is quicker, while the body contact directly connected him with the painting. He believed this allowed for a greater sense of freedom and pleasure from the act of painting.

elected Works

Arthur Boyd's subjects were often mythical, realistic, malformed people and monster, depicting a tragic drama [Hopwood, Graham. (1989) Handbook of art. Page 128. Graham Hopwood Publications ISBN 0-9599271-0-7] .

* Creek near Rosebud 1937
* The Seasons 1944
* The Lovers 1944
* David and Saul 1946
* Wimmera Landscape 1950
* Merric Boyd 1952
* Half Cast Child 1957
* Moses leading the People 1957
* Lovers with a Bluebird 1962
* Figure supporting Back Legs 1973
* Riversdale Bushland 1976
* Flood receding one Winter Evening 1981
* Bathers Pulpit Rock 1985

External References

* [ The Golden Calf 1946 Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.]
* [ Wheatfield, Berwick, 1948]



* Brenda Niall, "The Boyds", Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 2002. (ISBN 0-522-84871-0)
* 1985. Arthur Boyd:Figures in the Landscape. Produced and directed by Don Featherstone. Ronin Films.
* [ Arthur Boyd at Australian Art]

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