Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 September 2010

Arthur Boyd

(1920 - 1999)

oil on canvas

108.5 x 113.5 cm

signed lower left: Arthur Boyd

$90,000 - 120,000
Sold for $102,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 16 - 1 September 2010, Sydney

Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Encapsulating the heroic and poetic in an Antipodean tragedy of thwarted lovers, Arthur Boyd's 'Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-Caste' series 1954-59 is universally considered among his finest. Thus, upon his arrival in London shortly after completion of the landmark series for which he had won so much acclaim, Boyd did not immediately abandon this hauntingly beautiful theme but rather, began to develop the imagery further - transforming his nubile bride from the wide-eyed, flat-footed innocent with all her earthly physicality to the sylph-like nymph featured here whose ephemeral presence hovers insect-like above the lush, wooded landscape. Rare and highly sought-after, the small group of paintings resulting from such experimentation and exemplified by Landscape with Bride, Ram and Waterfall, moreover heralded significant thematic and stylistic shifts in the artist's oeuvre that would culminate in his 'mythological' paintings of the late 1960s.

Profoundly influenced by the great masterpieces of Renaissance art which were now so readily accessible in Europe's vast collections, these later Bride paintings poignantly illustrate the artist's predilection for eclecticism at its extreme. Merging his previous interpretations of the theme with literary references to classical mythology and his predecessors' pictorial meditations upon the destinies of Eros, Boyd here creates his own highly personal, erotic symbolism; as Rosenthal elucidates, 'In many pictures, the fantasy has a basis in metamorphosis, as in Nude Turning into Dragonfly or Bride Turning into a Windmill. In others, Boyd displays his enduring habit of eclectic borrowing - for example, the fruitful left breast from Tintoretto's Origin of the Milky Way or the mournful, seated dog from Piero di Cosimo's picture of the satyr mourning a dead girl.'1 All are nevertheless distinguished from Boyd's previous work by a more sophisticated painterly technique in which the relative flatness of the picture surface is exchanged for a heavier impasto style featuring thick streaks of paint carefully worked with a knife or brush-handle akin to the vigour of contemporary expressionism.

A superb example of this later series, Landscape with Bride, Ram and Waterfall features the chief protagonist portrayed as a dark, hovering, half-transparent phantom, the white halo of her veil forming a full circle recalling the blades of a turning windmill while below, the burning, consuming passion of her lover emerges from the darkness of the primeval forest. In its themes of allurement and the threat of unknown depths, the work evokes unmistakable associations with the myth of Narcissus, while stylistically the motif of the flaming bushland prefigures the artist's fiery explorations of the Old Testament Nebuchadnezzar theme. Like the best of Boyd's achievements, the present work offers a highly idiosyncratic composition, of multiple meaning and quenching thirst, and redolent with the energy of drama.

1. Rosenthal, T., 'Introduction' in Hoff, U., The Art of Arthur Boyd, Andre Deutsche, London, 1986, pp. 22-3.