British born Australian landscape artist, Theodore Penleigh Boyd was born on 15 August, 1890, at Penleigh House, Westbury, Wiltshire in England. Penleigh Boyd was a member of the Boyd artistic dynasty and he received his artistic training from his artist parents, Arthur Merric Boyd (1862–1940), and Emma Minnie Boyd (née à Beckett), and at the National Gallery Art School. His brothers included the ceramicist and potter, Merric Boyd (1888–1959); the novelist Martin Boyd, (1893–1972), and; sister Helen Read à Beckett Boyd (1903–1999), who also painted.
Penleigh had his first exhibition at the Victorian Artists’ Society at 18, and exhibited at the Royal Academy, in London, at 21. He won second prize in the Australian Government’s competition, for a painting of the site of the new national capital, Canberra. He also won the Wynne Prize, in 1914, with Landscape. Penleigh had a talent for the handling of evanescent effects of light, which he may have learned from fellow artist, Emmanuel Phillips Fox, who introduced him to plein air techniques, when they were neighbours in Paris, in 1912–1913.
- Penleigh had travelled to Europe in 1911. He met Queensland-born, Edith Susan Gerard Anderson, a model for Phillips Fox’s paintings; and Penleigh and Edith married in Paris, on 15 October, 1912. The couple returned to Australia in 1913, and settled in Melbourne.
- Edith was a skilled painter, and also came from a cultivated family. Her father had been Director of the Queensland Department of Public Instruction. Her brother Arthur, was a prominent doctor, and her eldest sister Maud, was one of the first women to graduate with a Bachelor or Arts degree, from the University of Sydney.
- Their first child, Pamela, was born in the spring of 1913, but she died two weeks later.
In 1914, with his painting career flourishing, Penleigh purchased a block of land at Warrandyte, and built a family home and studio, naming it “The Robins“. The Boyd’s second child John á Beckett Boyd (known as Pat) was born in 1915. Soon after, Penleigh enlisted and served with the Mining Corps of AIF during World War I. Unfortunately, Penleigh was gassed and injured at Ypres, in 1917, which left him with lasting physical problems. He was invalided back to England, and repatriated to Australia, in March, 1918.
The Boyd’s second son Robin Gerard Penleigh Boyd, was born in January, 1919. Penleigh continued to paint prolifically for the rest of his life, although his war service also left permanent psychological scars. In 1922, he sold “The Robins“, and moved the family to Sydney. Penleigh was invited to help organise a major exhibition of contemporary European art, to be staged in Australia, so, he and his family travelled to England to select various artworks. Penleigh returned to Australia on his own, to set up the exhibition; leaving his family back in England.
At the end of the exhibition, Penleigh became disillusioned with his work, and he destroyed many of his lesser paintings, and sold some of his better ones. During this period, whilst his wife and family were still overseas, he carried an open affair with Minna Schuler, the daughter of the editor of The Age newspaper. Shortly before Edith and the children returned to Australia, Penleigh bought back “The Robins” as well as purchasing a new Hudson car. He met his family off the ship, at Port Melbourne, on their return, but he and Edith quarrelled almost immediately.
- On 27 November, 1923, for unknown reasons, Penleigh drove in the Hudson, to Sydney. Although a skilled driver, he lost control on a sharp bend near Warragul and the car overturned. His passenger survived, but Penleigh suffered terrible injuries and died at the scene within minutes.
Fortunately for Edith, the money from his estate (including the proceeds of the sale of “The Robins“, the repaired car and about 40 paintings), plus a small inheritance from her father, and an annual allowance from Penleigh’s father, Edith could support their sons Pat and Robin without needing to work, even during the depths of the Great Depression.
- Pat (1915–1980), became a painter, wartime pilot, and later a commercial aviation pilot, and married Anne Davy.
- Robin (1919–1971), was a distinguished influential Melbourne architect, educator, writer, and social commentator; who married Patricia Madder, (daughter of Læticia Gough, a sister to Doris (nee Gough) Boyd (who married Penleigh’s brother Merric Boyd).
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