From Brides and Skates | To Statues and Fridges

Famous Melbourne born artist, Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd, AC, OBE, was born on 24th July, 1920, at the family house ‘Open Country‘, in Murrumbeena, in Victoria. Arthur Boyd was the second child of William Merric Boyd, a potter, and his wife Doris (née Gough), a painter. The Boyd family’s artistic dynasty includes painters, sculptors, architects and other arts professionals, commencing with Arthur’s grandfather, Arthur Merric Boyd, and uncles Penleigh Boyd, and Martin Boyd. Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd was the brother of :

  • Lucy Evelyn Gough Boyd (1916–2009), painter and ceramic decorator
  • Guy Martin à Beckett Boyd (1923–1988), early poet, potter and sculptor
  • David Fielding Gough Boyd (1924–2011), potter and painter; and
  • Mary Elizabeth Boyd (1926–2016), painter, potter and photographer.

With no formal training, except for cursory attendance at the Melbourne National Gallery School night classes for one year, Arthur Boyd’s formal education ended in 1934, when he was fourteen. He went to work in his uncle Ralph Madder’s paint factory, after which he earned a living as a builder’s and carpenter’s assistant. Two years later, in 1936, Arthur’s grandmother Emma Minnie (nee a’Beckett) died. He went to live with his grandfather Arthur Merric Boyd, who, for three years, nurtured young Arthur’s artistic talent, at Rosebud, on the Mornington Peninsula. His early paintings were portraits and of seascapes of Port Phillip.

Arthur became a leading Australian painter during the late 20th century. He moved to the inner city, where he was influenced by his contact with European refugees. Reflecting this move in the late 1930s, Arthur’s work moved into a distinct period of depictions of fanciful characters, in urban settings. His work ranges from Impressionist renderings of Australian landscape, to starkly Expressionist figuration; and many canvases feature both styles.

Arthur was conscripted in 1941, and served with the Cartographic Unit until 1944. Following the war, Boyd, together with John Perceval founded a workshop at Murrumbeena, and turned his hand to pottery, ceramic painting and sculpture.

  • Arthur was a member of the Antipodeans, a group of Melbourne painters, that also included, Perceval, Clifton Pugh, David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson and Charles Blackman.
  • In the 1940s, Arthur became an active member of the Angry Penguins, artistic and literary group. The aim of Angry Penguins was to challenge the conventions of art-making in Australia and introduce a radical modernism that represented a new language of painting in Australia. Some of the artistic painters who were members of this movement included Perceval, Sidney Nolan, Danila Vassilieff, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Arthur traveled to Victoria’s Wimmera country and to Central Australia including Alice Springs and his work turned towards landscape paintings. During this period, perhaps his best-known work comes from his Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-Caste Bride series which reflected his observations of the indigenous first nation’s people of the Australian outback. Above are five paintings from The Bride series (1957-1959) including; The Frightened Bridegroom, The Ghost, The Wedding Group, The Bridegroom Drinking From a Lake, and Bridegroom Waiting For His Bride To Grow Up. First exhibited in Melbourne in April 1958, the series met a mixed reaction, as it did later that year in Adelaide and Sydney.

Arthur married Yvonne Lennie, a fellow painter and former student and drawing prize winner from the Melbourne National Gallery School. They had three children:

    • Polly Boyd (1946–), artist and painter
    • Jamie Patrick Boyd (1948–), painter and sculptor; and
    • Lucy Ellen Boyd, a painter.

The family moved to Bundanon on the Shoalhaven River, which became a constant inspiration for Arthur’s work over the 1980s and 1990s; and a stage for the very large paintings such as Bathers with Skate and Halley’s Comet (1985) Large Skate on a Grey Background (1979) and Australian Skategoat (1987) which were part of the Bundanon Trust exhibition which travelled around Australian galleries in 1994, including the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.

  • In 1993, Arthur and Yvonne Boyd gifted to the people of Australia, the family property at Bundanon. Held in trust, they later gifted further property, artwork, and the copyright to all of his artworks. Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd died on 24th April, 1999.

May his soul be skating away, on the thin ice of the new day

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Sources: McCulloch Alan. Encyclopedia of Australian Art. Hutchinson: Richmond, 1977 and Arthur Boyd 30 Paintings 1985-1994. Australian Galleries, Paddington NSW, 1994.
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