Important Fine Art and Aboriginal Art
30 November 2016


(1890 – 1923)

oil on board

42.5 x 52.0 cm

signed and dated lower left and lower right: Penleigh Boyd/ 22

$30,000 – 40,000
Sold for $36,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 46 - 30 November 2016, Sydney

Syme Estate, Melbourne
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 9 November 1999, lot 23
Private collection, Melbourne
Sotheby’s, Melbourne, 5 May 2003, lot 171
Roger Langsworth, Sydney

Catalogue text

The highly precocious Penleigh Boyd was a member of the great and immensely gifted Boyd dynasty of Australian artists. Son of Emma Minnie and Arthur Merric Boyd, his Springtime was hung in London’s Royal Academy in 1911. In 1913 his unsullied landscape view won second prize in the Federal Capital Site Competition, and in 1914 he was awarded the Wynne Prize for landscape painting. Following engagement in the First World War when he was badly gassed at Ypres, he returned to Australia, continuing to paint landscapes in the tradition of Arthur Streeton. Full of the atmospheric freshness that comes from painting en plein air, his vision, nevertheless, is gentler. Seeking the poetic in nature, first inspired by his teacher Frederick McCubbin when Boyd was a student at the National Gallery School, Melbourne, he responded to its quiet, lyrical moods, painting landscapes touched by the post-war nationalism of the 1920s. These wonderfully optimistic images reveal a land of hope and promise found in the grandeur and quietude of the Australian landscape. He also continued the Hans Heysen tradition, as in the watercolour The Edge of the Forest, 1919 (Ledger Collection, Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria) in praise of the mighty and noble gum tree.

Boyd’s favourite painting sites included the River Yarra and Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria; and Sydney Harbour, the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains in New South Wales. As a colourist he was unrivalled, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne acquiring through the Felton Bequest that symphony of golden wattle, The Breath of Spring, 1919 in the same year it was painted. The rich output of these years is also seen today in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in its numerous holdings of Boyd’s paintings of the time, The Blue Mountains, c.1922 and Early Morning, Watson’s Bay, 1922 being fine examples.

Sparkling colour filtered through a gentle haze is the hallmark of Boyd’s art, as in Harbour Headland, 1922. All is set within a compositional format that appealed to Boyd and features with variations in several important works of this time. In Morning, Middle Harbour, 1922 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney) there is a similarity in the expanse of water surrounded by land, as again in Hawkesbury River, 1922 (private collection). In each a foreground closeness leads on to the striking blue waters beyond. Ringed in luxuriant greens and crowned with a sunlit sky, the subtle colour harmonies of these open, panoramic images of optimism speak of harmony and freedom, meditative, free from the shackles of the past.