BOYD, Arthur Merric Bloomfield

1920 - 1999

Arthur Boyd

Born at Open Country, 8 Wahroonga Crescent, Murrumbeena, Victoria, Australia, on 24 July 1920, second child and eldest son in the family of three sons and two daughters of (William) Merric Boyd, potter, and his wife, Doris Lucy Eleanor, née Gough, painter. His four siblings were the potter and painter Lucy Boyd, the sculptor Guy Boyd, the painter and potter David Boyd, and the painter Mary Boyd, who married successively two distinguished Australian painters, John Perceval and Sidney Nolan. After attending the state school at Murrumbeena, Melbourne, at the age of fourteen he left school and worked at the north Melbourne paint factory of his uncle Ralph Madder, while gaining a modest amount of formal artistic instruction at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne. In 1936 he went to live with his watercolourist grandfather, Arthur Merric Boyd, at Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula and became, a full-time painter and as early as 1937 was producing highly proficient landscapes. In 1938 he went back to Murrumbeena and built a separate studio in the grounds, using plans drawn up by his cousin, the distinguished architect Robin Boyd. In 1939 he shared an exhibition with Polish-born Yosl Bergner at the Rowden White Library at the University of Melbourne and the following year had his first full-scale exhibition (with Keith Nichol) at the Athenaeum Gallery in Melbourne. On 12 May 1941 Boyd joined the army in a light horse machine gun unit, for which he was ill-suited, and applied to join the more appropriate cartographic company, conveniently situated opposite the public library and National Gallery of Victoria. Boyd married on 6 March 1945, Yvonne Hartland, daughter of John Aim Lennie and Edna Latham Hartland. In 1946 their first child, Polly, was born. The period 1945–8 produced an extraordinary series of religious paintings including ‘The Prodigal Son’, ‘The Expulsion’, and ‘Angel Spying on Adam and Eve’ which, while dealing with episodes from the Old Testament, were also imbued with a rather sinister voyeuristic element. In 1949 Boyd moved with Yvonne, Polly, and his new son Jamie, to The Grange at Harkaway, Victoria and in 1955 moved to the beach suburb of Beaumaris on Port Phillip Bay. In 1959 he sailed with his family to London and rented a house at 13 Hampstead Lane, Highgate and his first London exhibition was at the Zwemmer Gallery in 1960 and with his growing sales and prices prospered. In 1966 Boyd began to paint his series devoted to Nebuchadnezzar and the paintings made a tremendous impact when they were first shown at the Edinburgh Festival of 1969. From 1970 he rented a modest cottage, Keeper's Cottage, Ramsholt, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, as a weekend retreat. Inevitably, within a matter of weeks, it became a second studio where, undisturbed by metropolitan life, he painted, if anything, more prolifically than ever. He did many Suffolk landscapes, etchings, drawings, and pastels and, while at Ramsholt, experimented with oil paintings on copper sheets which enhanced his brilliant sense of colour almost as dramatically as his ceramic tiles had done. Boyd was created OBE in 1970, AO in 1979, and AC in 1992 and in 1995 was named Australian of the Year. Returning to Australia in January 1999 he died, after a period of illness, at the Mercy Hospital in Melbourne on 24 April 1999. He was survived by his wife, Yvonne, and their three children.

Works by This Painter