Meet Minnie | The Mother of the Boyd Dynasty

Australian artist Emma Minnie Boyd was born Emma Minnie à Beckett, on 23 November, 1858. She is part of the artistic Boyd dynasty, which began with Emma and her husband Arthur Merric and their art work, which influenced their children and grandchildren, to pursue their own artistic careers.

Emma Minnie à Beckett was the second of six children to The Hon. William Arthur Callendar à Beckett (1833–1901) and Emma Mills à Beckett (1838–1906). Her father was the eldest son of Sir William à Beckett, first Chief Justice of Victoria, and à Beckett became a magistrate of the colony of Victoria in 1862, but later resided at Penleigh House, Westbury, Wiltshire. He married Emma Mills, in September 1855, the only child and heiress of John Mills, of Melbourne, who attained great fortune. The young Emma Minnie was known by her second name “Minnie”, so as not to be confused for her mother.

Partly thanks to her mother’s fortune, Minnie grew up in Melbourne. From an early age, she showed an interest in the arts, and her family would indulge her, by posing for her early portraits. Her parents were well off and supporters of the arts. They encouraged her and were able to support her through her studies at the National Gallery of Victoria School where she exhibited regularly, while studying.

  • Minnie became a prolific painter and exhibited her work frequently. She was a contemporary of Australian artists such as, James Conder, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts and the other artists from the Heidelberg School. She also worked with landscape watercolour artist, Louis Buvelot.

Minnie married aspiring painter, Arthur Merric Boyd, in 1886, and together they became the first members of many generations of artists of the Boyd family. They met while they were at art school together. The à Beckett’s were able to give the young couple and their children the means to pursue careers in the arts. They had five children, four of whom became prominent in the Australian artistic world.

  • Gilbert was born in 1886, but was tragically killed in a fall from a horse in 1896, Merric was born in 1888, Penleigh in 1890, Martin in 1893, and their youngest and only daughter Helen, in 1903.

In 1890, the Boyd’s went to Europe to work, where their work was shown at the Royal Academy of the Arts. The loss of family investments in the crash of the Melbourne land boom, brought Emma and her husband back to Melbourne, where she taught art students in her city studio.

Minnie exhibited publicly between 1874-1932. This included the Victorian Artists Society, the Centennial International Exhibition 1888 (Melbourne), the Royal Academy of Arts (London), and in a joint show with her husband at Como House, in Melbourne in 1902, amongst other venues.

  • After living in Wahroongaa Crescent, Murrumbeena, Minnie and Arthur Merric moved to 5 Edward Street, Sandringham, in 1924. She died at Sandringham on 13 September 1936, survived by her husband and two of her sons and her daughter.

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Source: McCulloch Alan. Encyclopedia of Australian Art. Hutchinson: Richmond 1977 and Gleeson, James. Australian Painters. Lansdowne Press; Sydney, 1976.
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