Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 November 2007

Arthur Boyd

(1920 - 1999)

oil on canvas

91.0 x 122.0 cm

signed lower right: Arthur Boyd

$100,000 - $140,000

Savill Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection, Sydney
Christie's, Sydney, 30 November 2004, lot 31 (as 'Potter at Shoalhaven')
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

'The most unusual element in Boyd's performance is the persistence with which here turns to his origins; the way in which both the art of his father and his own youthful work becomes a reserve from which he draws new ideas and to which he returns in between exploration of new ground.'1

Eager to rediscover his roots after more than a decade abroad, in 1971 Arthur Boyd returned to the banks of the Shoalhaven River where once again the magic of the dour, untamed Australian landscape became the impetus for his art. If initially this wild and primordial landscape seemed overwhelming, differing radically from the ordered English countryside to which he had grown accustomed, by the time he settled permanently at Bundanon in 1981, the artist had largely 'tamed' his wilderness - '...what was unfamiliar became familiar, what was menacing became friendly, what was awesome became intimate.'2

Unlike his previous interpretations of the Shoalhaven area which typically feature mythological creatures, symbolic narrative or 'pure' landscape, the present work references the artist's own 'Potter series' of the 1960s - an emotive homage to his parents who had recently died, Merric in 1959 and Doris the following year. Described by Gleeson as 'Songs of Innocence and Experience', the Potter paintings offer intimate, poetic evocations of the early life of Boyd's parents, paying tribute to the rich artistic legacy which they had bequeathed to Melbourne - and in particular, Merric's reputation as Australia's first studio potter. Although essentially commemorative, the series is nevertheless also imbued with a haunting sense of anguish; Janet McKenzie observes, '...The Potter paintings portraying the artist's father are, not surprisingly dramatic and tormented images, reflecting his temperament and the effect of his suffering on his extremely sensitive son. Arthur recalled his awareness as a child that his own father was alone in the precarious pursuit of artistic goals.'3

Revisiting the subject nearly two decades later, in Potter on the Shoalhaven, c.1982, Boyd thus presents a beautiful, tender image of his father in harmony with nature, yet inevitably isolated (presumably by his difficult personality and debilitating epilepsy). Glimpsed by the viewer through fine fragile branches of eucalyptus, indeed the scene bears a still, timeless quality - a universality which attests to the illumination and meaning that art can provide in a life that is otherwise dark and lonely.

1. Hoff, U., The Art of Arthur Boyd, Andre Deutsch, London, 1986, p.83
2. McGrath, S., The Artist and the Shoalhaven, Bay Books, Sydney, 1982, p.79
3. McKenzie, J., Arthur Boyd: Art and Life, London, 2000, pp.20-22