The Boyd family is Australia's most remarkable artistic dynasty.
- The Boyds, Brenda Niall, 2002.
Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) was part of a unique artistic dynasty. His grandparents Emma Minnie (nee a’Beckett) and Arthur Merric Boyd were both accomplished and recognised artists, exhibiting at the Royal Academy in London and in various galleries in Melbourne. Arthur Merric was a traditional landscape painter affiliated with the Heidelberg school.
They were quite well off, with money inherited from parents and grandparents. They lived a genteel life of travel and art, owned property in the UK and in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. Emma Minnie in particular was socially minded and active in helping the poor. She was very religious, shared bible stories, myths, legends and fairy tales with her children and grandchildren.
They had five children, the second being William Merric Boyd (Merric), known as the father of Australian studio pottery. He and his brothers and sisters were encouraged by their parents in the pursuit of art and music, in thinking of others and in helping the poor. Merric struggled with epilepsy throughout his life but was well loved and cared for by his family.
Open Country at Murrumbeena, in Melbourne was built in 1913 to Merric’s design on land purchased by his parents. It was a home, workplace and meeting ground for the Boyd family and many outstanding, creative individuals for thirty years. In 1915 Merric married Doris Gough, a quietly strong and determined woman, already a painter she became wife, mother and business manager. Merric and Doris had five children: Lucy, Arthur, Guy, David and Mary.
Visitors to Open Country included Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Yosl Bergner, John Perceval and many others. Merric’s parents, Emma Minnie and Arthur Merric Boyd and younger sister Helen, lived next door during the years of World War I; and on the other side Doris’ mother built a house she called Green Pastures.
When Arthur Boyd and Yvonne Lennie married in 1945 they lived at Open Country, and Arthur’s first studio was built in the rambling garden from a modernist design by his cousin Robin Boyd. With their respective partners Arthur’s siblings, Lucy, Guy, David and Mary Boyd also lived at Open Country during the 1940s and 50s. There were visits to Martin Boyd at The Grange (the a’Beckett family home) where the more genteel aspects of the Boyd and a’Beckett heritage prevailed. Arthur and Yvonne Boyd lived at The Grange for a time in 1948-49 as did Mary (nee Boyd) and John Perceval in 1951.
In late 1959 Arthur, Yvonne and their children went to London. Within six months Arthur’s work was receiving great acclaim and being exhibited in major galleries. Over the next ten years the Boyd’s travelled frequently between the UK and Australia.
In 1968 Arthur and Yvonne Boyd returned to Australia for a visit of six months. The open paddocks and rural atmosphere of Murrumbeena, where Arthur had grown up had disappeared under the tide of Melbourne’s rapid suburbanisation. Open Country was destroyed to make way for a two storey block of flats.
From 1956 The Grange was at the centre of a blue metal quarry. The old house, an 1860s a’Beckett family home set in the rolling hills near Berwick out of Melbourne, with its family associations and Arthur Boyd’s 1949 murals commissioned by Martin Boyd, was demolished by the quarry owners in the late 1960s.
With Open Country and The Grange so deeply etched in his makeup, Arthur Boyd experienced a profound sense of loss after his 1968 visit to the places of his early years, resulting in a determination to preserve the heritage of his family. His first tentative ideas for Bundanon had their origins in this experience and the decision to build a collection of works to represent his family was made at this time.
In 1971 Arthur was again in Australia doing a Creative Fellowship at the ANU when he and Yvonne were invited to visit a property on the Shoalhaven River called Bundanon by art dealer Frank MacDonald, then part owner of the property.
Bundanon had an immediate and profound effect on Arthur’s thinking and work. This visit reignited his passion for landscape painting, a genre he had explored as a younger artist but moved away from during his career. In 1974 the Boyds purchased an adjoining property called Riversdale. They added two other lots of land and purchased a right of way. Then in 1979 the Boyds purchased Bundanon from the McGraths and MacDonald. They made this their home whenever they were in Australia.
Often quoted as saying “you can’t own a landscape”, from this time Arthur and Yvonne started work on how they could give it all away and at the same time protect it. Arthur, Yvonne, Sidney Nolan and then Arts Minister, Clyde Holding, all worked very hard to convince the Federal government to accept the gift. It was finally accepted by the then Prime Minister Paul Keating in March 1993.
|Arthur Boyd Visual Timeline||9.39 MB|