Edith Boyd | The Green Parasol and Nasturtiums

Australian artist, dramatist, and painter, Edith Susan Gerard Anderson (later, Edith Susan Boyd) was born on 16 February, 1880, in Brisbane, Queensland. She was the daughter of John Gerard Anderson, the head of the Department of Public Instruction, and Edith Sarah Wood. Her brother Arthur was a prominent doctor, and her eldest sister Maud was one of the first women to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, from the University of Sydney, making her possibly Queensland’s first female university graduate.

Edith Anderson attended the Slade School in London in 1905, and also lived in Paris, modeling for the Australian artist Emanuel Phillips Fox. Anderson lived with Phillips Fox and his wife, Ethel Carrick Fox, at their Paris studio-home in the Cité fleurie, 65 Boulevard Arago, in Montparnasse, south of the Luxembourg Gardens. Phillips Fox gave Anderson painting lessons based on the Impressionistic style, that he learned when he attended the National Gallery School in Melbourne (1878-1886).

As a model, Anderson was known for her bright red hair, which features in many of Phillips Fox’s works. Many of the paintings she modeled for, were painted in-situ, in the small central courtyard, located in the Phillips Fox studio-apartment.  She appeared in up to seven possible paintings in 1912, including The Green Parasol, On the Balcony, Nasturtiums, and Mrs. Penleigh Boyd. 

  • Anderson met her husband, Australian painter Theodore Penleigh Boyd, during this trip to Paris. Phillips Fox introduced Penleigh Boyd to Anderson, when Boyd worked in the studio next door to them.
  • Boyd and Anderson married in Paris, on 15 October 1912; with Anderson being ‘given away’ by Fox because of their close friendship. Notable guests at the Anderson-Boyd wedding include Rupert Bunny and Bessie Gibson.
  • In 1912, following their wedding, Edith Susan Boyd (as she was now to be known) and Penleigh Boyd took their honeymoon to Chartres, Mentone, Rome, Florence, and Venice.
  • In 1913, the couple then returned to Melbourne, Australia where their first child, Pamela Boyd, was born, but sadly died two weeks later.

In 1914, the couple moved to Warrandyte, where Penleigh Boyd built the couple a home studio, known as “The Robins”. Edith Boyd gave birth to her second child, John a Beckett Boyd (1915–1980), known as Pat Boyd, in 1915.

In 1917, Penleigh Boyd enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He was gassed in Ypres, in 1917, and was left with lasting physical problems. Edith reunited with Penleigh after he was sent to England; and then later repatriated to Australia, in March, 1918. On 3 January, 1919, Edith gave birth to their second son, Robin Boyd (1919–1971) at Armadale, Melbourne. [Robin Boyd became an influential Australian architect, writer, teacher, and social commentator].

In 1922, the Boyd’s sold “The Robins“, and moved to Sydney. Penleigh was hired by Sydney Ure Smith, as one of the organizers of a major exhibition of contemporary European art. Because of this opportunity, the Boyd’s moved to England to select paintings for this exhibition. Penleigh returned to Australia without Edith and the children, in June, 1923, due to tumultuous marriage troubles. It was during this separation, that he cheated on Edith, by having a brief affair with Minna Schuler, a Melbourne socialite, who was the daughter of the editor of The Age newspaper.

  • Before Edith and the children returned to Australia, Penleigh bought back “The Robins“, and purchased a new Hudson car.
  • On 24 November, 1923, Edith met Penleigh at the Port Melbourne shipping terminal; however, the couple began to argue immediately.
  • On 28 November 1923, Penleigh Boyd died when he crashed his Hudson car, whilst speeding, near Warragul, in Victoria, on his way to Sydney.
  • Penleigh Boyd is was buried at the Brighton Cemetery in Victoria.

After Penleigh’s death, Edith began writing dramas that were staged by repertory companies, as well as radio plays, for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Following the sale of  “The Robins“, Edith moved to one of the oldest apartment blocks in Toorak. She later bought a house in Malvern East in 1927. Edith Susan Boyd died in the Melbourne suburb of East Burwood, on 31 March, 1961.

Three of Emmanuel Phillips Fox’s portraits of Edith were held by the Boyd family, including his Belle Époque period portrait of Edith, Nasturtiums (1912). This work was purchased in 2011 at an auction by the Society of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, serving as a memorial to Margaret Olley, a renown Sydney artist and patron of the gallery, who died a few months earlier.

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Source: Boyd, David. An Open House: Recollections of My Early Life (2012)
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