Important Australian + International Fine Art
9 May 2007

Arthur Boyd

(1920 - 1999)

122.0 x 91.0 cm

signed lower right: Arthur Boyd

oil on composition board

$80,000 - 120,000
Sold for $180,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 1 - 9 May 2007, Melbourne

Gould Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Company collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

Eager to rediscover his roots, his 'Australianism', after more than a decade abroad, in 1971 Arthur Boyd settled on the banks of the Shoalhaven River where once again the magic of the dour, untamed Australian landscape became the impetus for his art. Wild and primordial, the region differed completely from the ordered English countryside to which he had grown accustomed and thus, a new vision was required to unlock its tangled mysteries. If previously Breughel and Rembrandt had offered inspiration, now Von Guerard, Piguenit and Buvelot became Boyd's spiritual mentors; as he mused, 'I see the landscape looking very much like a Von Guerard, much more than the look of the Australian Impressionist school. In this area you are aware again and again how those old boys got it right all the time.'1

Soul-piercing in its beauty, the Shoalhaven region offered infinite potential as a subject - 'the variation in the area with its great deep tones and high keys' bearing strong affinities with music. As Boyd elaborated, ' the desert there is only one note, just one low singing note. In this landscape the tonal range- not tonal in the obvious sense of colour, but the actual fact of the horizon which can vary from very high to low to infinite, depending on your line of vision - makes it a greater challenge. It has a knife-edged clarity. Impressionism could never have been born here, but Wagner could easily have composed here.'2 Interestingly, discussing Three Reflected Rocks, a composition closely related to the present Black Swan and Reflected Rocks, Shoalhaven, Boyd again draws upon an analogy with music to elucidate his intentions: ' one sense, I've abstracted the rocks and the uprights; the trees tend to be a full stop against the rock; or, in some cases a single note of music, the script of music I mean.'3

Strong and lyrical, Black Swan and Reflected Rocks, Shoalhaven is an exquisitely painted example of the Shoalhaven 'pure' landscapes which, devoid of the mythological creatures and symbolic narrative punctuating his later versions, celebrate Nature in all her beauty and grandeur. Indeed, the work illustrates well how, ultimately, Boyd did tame his wilderness - '...what was unfamiliar became familiar, what was menacing became friendly, what was awesome became intimate.'4

1. Boyd cited in McGrath, S., The Artist and the Shoalhaven, Bay Books, Sydney, 1982, p.220
2. Boyd cited in Pearce, B., Arthur Boyd Retrospective, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1993, pp.26-27
3. McGrath, op.cit., p.56
4. ibid., p.79