Artist's Biography

Born at Murrumbeena in Victoria in 1920, Arthur Boyd was known as a painter, ceramic sculptor and potter.  Although Arthur Boyd never undertook formal art studies, other than a year of night classes at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne, he learnt about art at an early age from his very artistic family.  Within his family circle his father Merric Boyd, was a potter and sculptor and his mother Doris Boyd was a painter and potter. His brother David and his sisters Lucy and Mary are painters and his brother Guy, was a potter. Arthur’s grandparents, Arthur Merric Boyd and Emma Minnie Boyd were both landscape painters as was his uncle Penleigh Boyd.

As a boy Arthur Boyd attended the local Murrumbeena State School and won many prizes for drawing. At the early age of seventeen he went to live with his grandfather at his cottage in Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula.  For the two years that he spent with grandfather from 1936-38, he was taught the rudiments of painting in the Heidelberg impressionist tradition.

When he was 19 years old Arthur held his first one-man show in Melbourne in 1939 and shortly afterwards joined the army where he was to spend three years, mostly in the Field Survey Corps.  Here he met the artist John Perceval, who later became his brother-in-law when he married Arthur’s sister Mary. After discharge from the army in 1943, Arthur founded a pottery at Murrumbeena and collaborated with John Perceval and Peter Herbst.

In 1949, Arthur Boyd decided to devote all his time to painting and ceramic sculpture and at the invitation of the great artist Lloyd Rees he became involved in the Contemporary Art Society in Melbourne. During the 1940’s his work went through several phases including the painting of a large mural at the home of his uncle, Martin Boyd at Harkaway near Berwick, Victoria; a series of landscapes of North West Victoria; a nine-metre ceramic sculpture he built in Melbourne for the Olympic Games swimming pool in 1955, and his celebrated paintings from the “Half-Caste Bride” series painted from 1957-59 after an earlier visit to Central Australia. In 1959 Tim Burstall and Patrick Ryan made a prize-wining film in Melbourne about his “Half-Caste Bride” series.

During the 1960s, Arthur lived mostly with his family in London, where he exhibited widely and established an international reputation. Notable commissions included a Romeo and Juliet ceramic Triptych in 1964 to honour Shakespeare’s 400-year anniversary.

He returned to Australia over 1971 and 1972 and for six months was resident Fellow in Creative Arts at the Australian National University, Canberra.  Two years later he and his wife Yvonne purchased a house and property “Riverdale, at Shoalhaven on the south coast of New South Wales, followed a few years later by the nearby property “Bundanon” – both of which were accepted as a gift to the nation in 1993.

In 1975 Arthur presented several thousand works including sculptures, etchings and paintings to the Australian National Gallery in Canberra. In 1984 he was commissioned to design the tapestry for the reception hall at new Parliament House, Canberra.  Arthur then continued to work in the United Kingdom for part of 1989 and 1990. In 1993 the Art Gallery of New South Wales mounted a major retrospective of his paintings, prints, drawings and ceramics that toured Australia’s state galleries in 1994.

In his later years, Arthur Boyd spent his time between a home in Suffolk, England, a farmhouse in Tuscany and his properties in Australia. He died in Melbourne on 24 April, 1999.

ExhibitionsHas held many one-man shows in Australia and overseas over the years including Zwemmer Gallery, London; Retrospective shows at Whitechapel Gallery, London 1962; Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh 1969; Australian National University, Canberra 1971-72 and Skinner Gallery, Perth 1971; Fischer Fine Art, London UK 1973, 1980, 1983 and 1986;  Rudy Komon Gallery 1978 and 1981; Fremantle Arts Centre 1979; Australian Galleries, Melbourne 1976, 1981, 1982 (retrospective), 1985 and 1987; Queensland University Art Museum 1982; Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong 1983; Wagner Gallery 1984 and 1987; Art Gallery of South Australia 1984; BMG, Adelaide 1984 and 1988;  Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan (Wagner Gallery) 1984; von Bertouch, Newcastle 1986, 1987 and 1989; Works Gallery, Geelong 1985;  Solander, Canberra 1985; Holdsworth 1985; M.P.A.C. 1988; BMG Sydney 1988 and 1989 (retrospective); Wagner Gallery 1989.

Significant group shows include Venice Biennale 1958 and the Australian Painters 1964-66 Exhibition (Mertz Collection) Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC USA. 1967; “Landscape and Image”, Australian Gallery Directors Council Travelling Exhibition to Indonesia 1978; Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC 1985; Commonwealth Institute, London 1988; Venice Biennale 1988; Australian Consulate General, Los Angeles 1987.

Awards: Britannica Award 1971; OBE, London UK; Order of Australia (A.O.) for Services to the Arts 1979.  Australian of the Year in 1995.

Represented:Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Print Room at the British Museum, London; National Collection, Canberra;  all Australian State Galleries; Mertz Collection, USA; Contemporary Art Society, London; many provincial, institutional and private collections in Australia and overseas.