Painter, potter, ceramic decorator and photographer, Mary Elizabeth Boyd, was born in Murrumbeena, Victoria, in 1926. Mary was a member of the Boyd family artistic dynasty which includes painters, sculptors, architects and other arts professionals, commencing with Boyd’s grandfather Arthur Merric Boyd, Boyd’s father William Merric and mother Doris (nee Gough), uncles Penleigh Boyd and Martin Boyd. Mary was the youngest sibling of:
- Lucy Evelyn Gough Boyd (1916–2009), painter, ceramic decorator,
- Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd (1920–1999), painter,
- Guy Martin à Beckett Boyd (1923–1988), early poet, potter and sculptor, and
- David Fielding Gough Boyd (1924–2011), potter and painter
Mary Boyd grew up with her creative siblings, at their home ‘Open Country‘, in the Melbourne south-eastern suburb of Murrumbeena, on what was then considered the rural outskirts of Melbourne. From an early age she appears as a subject in numerous paintings by her brother, Arthur Boyd (as shown above) and as a model for her other brother Guy’s sculptural work; and later for painter, potter, sculptor, and close family friend, John Perceval’s densely populated paintings.
She married Perceval, in November, 1944. They met through her brother Arthur. He and Perceval were friends who went on, like their contemporary, Sidney Nolan, to be members of the Angry Penguins group of avant-garde Australian artists and writers. Together, Mary and John Perceval had four children: Matthew, Tessa, Celia and Alice who all became painters. Their marriage was a difficult one, as Perceval battled alcoholism and schizophrenia throughout his life.
After their divorce, Mary married the famous Australian painter Sir Sidney Nolan, in 1978, becoming Lady Mary Nolan. Their marriage was less than two years after the suicide of Nolan’s second wife Cynthia, and love affair with Sunday Reed at Heide Gallery. Sidney and Mary’s marriage caused a rift with Nolan’s friend, the author Patrick White, who criticised him for the speed with which he moved on, in his memoir, Flaws in the Glass.
Mary and Sidney Nolan, established the Sidney Nolan Trust at their estate The Rodd, in Wales, United Kingdom, where they welcomed many Australian artists and members of the art world, but they never lost contact with Australia.
- Together with her siblings, Mary gifted a large number of works by their father William Merric Boyd to the Australian national collections. It was her way of recognising their father’s achievement, as well as being a family tradition, of making artistically inspired philanthropic contributions to the nation.
- Mary’s legacy and salvation continued through her enduring passion and commitment to the visual arts, by allowing Australian galleries to promote the images of Sidney Nolan’s works.
After Sidney Nolan’s death in 1992, Mary relinquished her Australian citizenship, but continued to pursue Sidney Nolan’s legacy and in 2004 she won a bitter Supreme Court dispute with his adopted daughter, Jinx Nolan, over the ownership of his works.
- Lady Mary Nolan died peacefully at The Rodd in Wales in 2016, at the age of 89. She is survived by her four children from her marriage to John Perceval.
Artwork by Mary Boyd – Abandoned Miner’s Hut (1956) and Arthur Boyd’s – Mary Boyd portrait.
“Is It Art?”