Important Australian + International Fine Art
22 November 2023


(1920 - 1999)

oil on canvas

91.5 x 122.0 cm

signed lower right: Arthur Boyd

AU$70,000 – $90,000

Private collection
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 26 July 1987, lot 396 (as 'Shoalhaven River, with Jinker Pulled by Swans')
Savill Galleries, Sydney
Company collection, Sydney


1888 – 1988: A Century of Australian Painting, Savill Galleries, Sydney, 21 April - 21 May 1988, cat. 50 (as 'Figure Driving Swans Pulpit Rock, c.1976')

Catalogue text

‘...The river is, of course, the most compelling image in many of these paintings from this period. Boyd has captured it in all its moods, quiet as floods begin to recede; ugly brown as it swells with water; dark, calm and green in summer when the land is parched; glowing pink at sunset.’1

After almost two decades abroad, in 1974 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. Soul-piercing in its beauty, the region offered infinite potential as a subject – ‘the variation in the area with its great deep tones and high keys’2 bearing strong affinities with music. Invariably though, the artist’s abiding love for the region was informed with a deep respect and latent fear, for the Shoalhaven was not always kind. In 1975, heavy rains transformed the placid flowing river into a great swollen torrent that engulfed everything in its path: as Boyd observed at the time, ‘...the river moans and groans in a muted way, and great chunks of what was upstream comes down – dead cattle with their legs sticking up, logs and roof tops. Once a whole house came down the river.’3 When the waters finally subsided, all that remained was an earthly silence and the land strewn with death and debris.

Indelibly influenced by these events which left the artist and his family marooned, Boyd subsequently embarked upon a series of landscapes so redolent with impending disaster ‘...it is as if Nature is holding its breath.’Drawing upon the motif of the horse and jinker first employed in his poetic tribute to his mother, Potter's Wife, Horse and Trap (Rosebud), 1969 – 70, thus Boyd proceeded to explore, through various iterations such as the present, the theme of the lone rider venturing across the watery Shoalhaven landscape. In Black Horse, 1975 for example, the horse stumbles uncertainly towards the river, while in Jinker on Sandbank, 1976 – 77, fear has transformed the rider into a hare, and in Jinker on a Sandbank with Pulpit Rock in the Background, 1975, the composition is dominated by a flock of oversized, menacing black crows whose presence imparts a distinct air of portent or unease.

Infused by contrast with a gentle lyricism, Jinker on a Sandbank, Shoalhaven, c.1976 encapsulates the more optimistic spirit that distinguishes Boyd’s later treatment of the subject from his earlier investigations. With the horse now replaced by black swans (ubiquitous in the Shoalhaven region), the rider charges at full gallop across the sandbar with obvious determination, while in the distance, the warm glow of the pale pink evening sky and sun-kissed peak of Pulpit Rock suggest the promise of halcyon times ahead. Although reminiscent of classical antiquity, Boyd insists that his inclusion of the chariot pulled by black swans here bears no ‘connection with a particular myth or legend’, although ‘…when I saw the swans on the river they did remind me a bit of a four-in-hand as they glided along the water.’5 With the mirror-like expanse of water and colourful afterglow paying homage more directly to his artistic predecessors such as von Guérard and Piguenit, indeed the work is a poignant reminder of how Boyd, comfortable once more with the vast open spaces of the Australian landscape, ultimately did tame his wilderness ‘...what was unfamiliar became familiar, what was menacing became friendly, what was awesome became intimate.’6

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. Boyd cited in McGrath, op. cit., p. 58
4. Hoff, U., The Art of Arthur Boyd, Andre Deutsch, London, 1986, p. 73
5. Boyd cited in McGrath, op. cit., pp. 270 – 271
6. McGrath, ibid., p. 79