Arthur Boyd - A Celebration

This exhbition is a tribute to the work of Arthur Boyd and runs until 7 May 2009.

Please email the gallery for the prices of available works or telephone + 6 12 9327 8311.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story on Arthur Boyd in light of 10 years passing since his death. To read the full article, visit the SMH web site.

It is 10 years since the death of Arthur Boyd but his work remains as critically and commercially successful as ever, writes Louise Schwartzkof, April 18, 2009

OPENING an exhibition, Barry Humphries had a memorable way of summarising Arthur Boyd's contribution to Australian art in 1993.

"Walls, without Boyd, are merely worthless plaster. Let us salute our greatest living master!"

Boyd was wired to a microphone so the television crews could catch his response. Never quite comfortable in the limelight, he mumbled his thanks then bolted for the door.

When the cameraman asked after his mike the next day, the great Australian artist was already back painting on his Shoalhaven property.

It will be 10 years next week since he died at 78, leaving behind as many as 17,000 paintings, prints and other works.

"He made his fears and dreams more eloquent than any of his contemporaries," the Art Gallery of NSW curator Barry Pearce once wrote. "Boyd was an artist for all seasons of the soul, and of the people and landscapes that surrounded him."

His work remains as successful as ever, critically and commercially. Even in a recession his paintings sell, as shown at a sale of Australian art at Christie's in London last December. Little more than a third of the catalogue sold but the highlight was one of Boyd's oil on copper paintings, which fetched 61,250 ($127,000) - way above its estimate.

The art dealer Denis Savill will exhibit a collection of Boyd's paintings next week and expects the sale will go well.

"There's always a market for Boyd," he says. "In my 35 years in the business, there's never been anyone as consistent or easy to sell. Somehow he understood the common denominator of what Australians like."

What buyers particularly like are the lush vistas of eucalypts on the Shoalhaven River. Pure, lyrical and easy to like, they seem consistent with the popular image of Boyd as a humble and unassuming nature-lover.

More difficult are his unsettling urban landscapes, his strange, apocalyptic Old Testament scenes and his Bride series, full of outrage about the plight of indigenous Australians.

It has puzzled many that such tortured imagery could come from a softly spoken, publicity-shy father of three.

The speculation irks his wife, Yvonne. "I sometimes think writers overdo it when they go on about this shy, gentle person," she says. "If someone had a subject he was interested in, he was very willing to talk and he had strong opinions. He was gentle but he wasn't naive and he wasn't at all shy."

The passion and turbulence of her husband's work makes sense to Mrs Boyd. When they first met, he was a soldier in uniform, newly conscripted and furious about the violence and cruelty of war.

In 1951 he went to central Australia. While travelling on the Ghan, he saw a group of Aborigines packed into the cattle carriage. One was a young bride standing up to keep her dress clean. "He was appalled at all the discrimination he saw," she says.

It was the Bride paintings, inspired by that trip, which first brought Boyd international success. When they were exhibited in London in 1960, he was acclaimed as the "antipodean Chagall". They were "unlike anything London had seen, [with] a Faulknerian darkness and intensity," Britain's Independent wrote after his death.

For the Boyd family, newly arrived in London with young children, success came not a minute too soon. They bought the house they had been renting in Highgate and were able to take more trips to Europe's galleries.

"But to be honest, life didn't change that much," says his son, Jamie Boyd. "There had been a lifelong anxiety about where the money was coming from, so even when he got some he was still very cautious."

One indulgence was the Shoalhaven property, Bundanon, which the Boyds bought in the 1970s. Jamie, also an artist, still paints in the valley and understands his father's love of the land.

"The place itself is so evocative you can't help feeling passionate about it," he says. "Once you get down on the river, you get so involved that the landscape takes over."

In his later years, Boyd hatched a plan to give all 1214 hectares to the people of Australia. "Arthur liked that expression - 'the people of Australia'," his wife says.

With its houses, studios, barns and thousands of artworks, Bundanon was an ideal space for a thriving arts centre - or so Boyd thought. But the government was nervous about how the estate would be funded and run, procrastinating for 10 years before taking the property.

The Boyds finally heard their gift had been accepted while staying in a Melbourne hotel.

"He was so delighted and relieved that he did something he'd never done before," Mrs Boyd says. "He sent down for a bottle of champagne and I can tell you, that was a very rare thing."

On the whole, she thinks Boyd would be happy with what Bundanon has become - one of the largest artist-in-residence programs in the world. She wishes there was a purpose-built gallery onsite and more music, but is pleased so many children visit on school trips.

Some who knew Boyd have said he wanted to leave something more behind than paintings. But the artist spoke more humbly of his aspirations.

"The ultimate aim of any artist, I suppose, would be to be a very good artist, if not the best. But as you get older you may have to be satisfied with being something less. I suppose my ultimate aim would be to paint the great picture, or if not the great one, then some very good ones."


Lovers in a Landscape

Twilight, Pulpit Rock
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Sunset Cave
     

Nebuchadnezzar being struck by lightning in a Forest
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Wimmera Dam

Anthills and Cockatoos in the Wimmera
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Wimmera Landscape

Jonah Outside the City

Black River with Grass Swimmer, Pulpit Rock
     

Aeroplane, Riverbank and Carcass

Pulpit Rock with Dog

Berwick Landscape
     

Portsea - Weeroona Bay

Hillside and Rocks

Shoalhaven
     

Cattle Grazing

Shoalhaven Quartet
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Tribute to Picasso
     

Early Morning, Shoalhaven

Arthur Boyd painting at Bundanon 1993

Arthur Boyd painting at Bundanon 1993