Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2014


(1920 - 1999)

oil on composition board

91.0 x 60.5 cm

signed lower right: Arthur Boyd
inscribed verso: Hillside with Bushfire

$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $66,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 36 - 27 August 2014, Sydney

Private collection
Sotheby's, Sydney, 29 November 1991, lot 348
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

When viewing Arthur Boyd's Shoalhaven paintings, one is immediately struck by the prehistoric beauty of the Australian countryside, untamed and rugged. After spending twenty-one years in England, Boyd returned to Australia and first visited the Shoalhaven in the summer of 1971-72 where he was transfixed by the view of its primordial landscape, so far removed from the romantic wilderness of England and from urbanisation. The wild environment of the Shoalhaven enchanted Boyd, and he would go on to illustrate and explore the craggy rocks, the untamed terrain and the sensuous forms of the area within these acclaimed paintings.

Shoalhaven - Hillside with Bushfire is a lyrical example of Boyd's celebrated landscapes. Dominating the scene is the powerful image of the river embankment and the rising hillside set against a pure blue sky. What at first appears as a rather tranquil scene gives way to a terrifying and common threat faced in the Australian bush: fire. Boyd juxtaposes the danger of the fire against the grace of the black swan and the calm river, drawing our attention to the beauty and peril that exists side by side in the Shoalhaven. The swan is safe on the water and appears completely oblivious to the fire and danger above, as it delicately preens its feathers. The only sign of movement is from a sea eagle high in the sky watching for fleeing prey and a magpie which looks poised to swoop on the swan.

Although the Shoalhaven paintings are often set in a pure and bright light, there is an element of 'darkness' inherent to the Australian landscape through the instability of life, subject to Mother Nature. When asked how he felt about the Shoalhaven landscape, the artist commented, 'It's foreign ... it is a fierce country, subject to violent changes such as floods and intense heat. The actual size of things about the country, the boulders, the actual timber, is just larger. It's very challenging.'1 Yet despite the presence of danger, there is a sense of joy and serenity that pervades Shoalhaven - Hillside with Bushfire which can only stem from an unequivocal understanding of this landscape, demonstrating Boyd's deep affinity with the Shoalhaven.

1. McGrath, S., The Artist and the River: Arthur Boyd and the Shoalhaven, Bay Books, Sydney, 1982, p. 40