Important Australian + International Fine Art
25 November 2009

Arthur Boyd

(1920 - 1999)

oil on canvas

122.0 x 91.5 cm

signed lower right: Arthur Boyd

$75,000 - 95,000
Sold for $78,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 12 - 25 November 2009, Melbourne

Savill Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Bensons Collection, Melbourne
Deutscher~Menzies, Sydney, 16 June 2004, lot 16
Private collection, Sydney


Australian Art, McCubbin to Whiteley, Bundoora Homestead Federation Centre for the Arts, Melbourne, 11 April – 1 June 2003

Catalogue text

Arthur Boyd first visited the Shoalhaven in 1972, returning from his home in England to undertake a six month arts fellowship at the Australian National University in Canberra, when invited by his friend, the Sydney art dealer Frank McDonald to spend the weekend at his Georgian stone house, Bundanon. Instantly the Boyd's fell in love with the area, as indeed had an impressive lineage of Australian painters before, such as Conrad Martens, Elioth Gruner and Roy de Maistre, (and after) Brett Whiteley, John Olsen and Tim Storrier.

But for Boyd, the attraction to this land was consuming: as was his affection for Bundanon. Before leaving Australia he asked McDonald to look for a property he could purchase nearby and within months of returning to England the Boyds had acquired, sight unseen, a 100 acre property about six kilometres east of Bundanon, called Riversdale.

Boyd's contact with the Shoalhaven caused a surge of creative activity which continued upon his return to England, with a number of images of the Shoalhaven exhibited at Fischer Fine Art, London in 1973. These were to be the first of a body of work Boyd was to revisit and renew for the rest of his life, so captured was he by the harsh, raw beauty of the area. 'The Shoalhaven is the only untamed landscape I have ever seen.'1

In 1976, the house was rebuilt at Riversdale and the Boyds moved in after staying six months at a nearby property while the building was completed. It was during this time that Arthur Boyd experienced firsthand the unpredictable power of the river with a major flood hampering the completion of the building and isolating him in their temporary home. 'We were marooned in a way that was an initiation. As the days wore on it became more and more intense, and the feeling that you could never get away from it. Since then I have been marooned at Riversdale several times. The river moans and groans in a muted way, and great chunks of what was upstream comes down - dead cattle with their legs sticking up, logs and roof tops. Once a whole house came down the river.'2

The symbolism in the painting on offer, Rose over Shoalhaven, is charged with these experiences: the love of the untamed Shoalhaven landscape, the power of river, and with Boyd's constant relocation between England and Australia, Boyd's expression of the (often surreal) imposition of European culture within an Australian context. As Sandra McGrath writes, 'He sees the rose as being a symbol of the attempt of Europeans, and in particular the English (as in a rose-covered cottage) to impose on the land of the Aboriginal an alien culture and civilisation. He finds the attempt futile, as the rose cannot flourish in a ground more suited to spinifex. Boyd's rose floats in full bloom like a cloud above the stark and vast reaches of the Shoalhaven hills and streams....But the rose as a symbol is charged with other meanings than the one Boyd gives to it, as he undoubtedly knows. It is the flower of Venus, a symbol of joy, victory or perfection. The single rose, like a mandala, stands for the mystic centre...'3

1. McGrath, S. The Artist & The River: Arthur Boyd and The Shoalhaven, Bay Books, Sydney, 1982, p. 51
2. ibid., p. 58
3. ibid., p. 66