Date of Birth
24 Jul 1920
Date of Death
24 Apr 1999
Place Of Birth
Place Of Death
Biographical Display
Arthur Boyd, one of the most famous of the descendants of the Boyds of Ballymacool, was born on 24 July 1920 in Murrumbeena, near Melbourne, Australia, to an artistic family. His grandfather, Arthur Merric, was a well-known landscape artist, his father Merric was a studio potter and his mother was a painter.

Boyd left school at the age of fourteen to work in a paint factory owned by an uncle. At the age of sixteen he began to paint landscapes and by seventeen he was exhibiting his work.

Boyd was one of the artists who played an important part in what has become known as the "Angry Decade" from 1937 to 1947. He was conscripted into the Australian Army Service Corps in 1939. Nonetheless he managed to participate in the exhibitions of the Contemporary Art Society during his service. At that time he was also beginning to develop a personal style, which combined surrealism, social realism and expressionism.

Boyd left the Army in 1945. He married a former art student, Yvonne Lennie. During the late 1940s, he painted such works as The Mockers and The Mourners. In 1948-1949, he produced his Berwick and Wimmera landscapes. As a result of a visit to Central Australia in 1951, he was struck by the depth of poverty among the Aboriginal people and was inspired to paint his best known series of paintings entitled Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-Caste.

Boyd lived in England from 1959 until 1971. In 1960, he had his first London show at the Zwemmer Gallery. He moved from the Half-Caste cycle to the Nebuchadnezzar series in 1966. In 1968 he made lithographs on the theme of St. Francis of Assisi and a collection of tapestries and pastels on the same theme followed. All of these works were exhibited at Fischer Fine Art Gallery in London.

In 1971, Boyd returned to Australia on a Fellowship to the Australian National University in Canberra. During the 1970s and 1980s he returned to landscape painting. Major commissions featured heavily in Boyd's career during the 1980s. Included amongst these was a commission for a tapestry for the Parliament House Authority in Canberra and another to paint sixteen canvases for the foyer of the State Theatre at the Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne.

Arthur Boyd PaintingIn 1993 Boyd gave his extensive properties at Bundanon to the Australian public for the creation of a National Arts and Environment Centre. The trust provides places for artists in residence. It is also developing exchange programmes, especially between England, Asia and Australia.

Arthur Boyd received many public honours, including the Order of the British Empire in 1970 and was voted Australian of the Year in 1995. He died in Melbourne on April 24th 1999 aged 78, leaving a rich legacy of drawings, paintings and sculpture. He is best described in an article by The Times newspaper:

"He was a rare 20th-century visionary who dealt with great themes, both personal and public, without ever losing his sense of place".

1920 Born Murrumbeena, Victoria
1935 Attends National Gallery Art School, Melbourne, Victoria
1936-38 Moves to grandfather Arthur Merric Boyd’s (a painter) cottage on the Mornington Peninsula, where time is spent painting landscapes and portraits
1937 First solo exhibition, Westminster Gallery, Melbourne
1939 Attended influential Herald exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art
1940 First major exhibition, Athenaeum Gallery, Melbourne
1941 Conscripted into the army. Meets influential peers such as John Perceval, Noel Counihan, Joy Hester, Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan, John and Sunday Reed.
1942-46 Exhibits in Sydney and Melbourne with the Contemporary Art Society during this period
1945 Marries Yvonne Lennie.
1945-47 Works on a series of biblical paintings
1946 Exhibits with Tucker and Nolan, Rowden White Library, University of Melbourne.
1948 First commission – mural on Uncle Martin Boyd’s dining room wall at The Grange.
1949 First ceramic tile paintings
1950 First retrospective exhibition, David Jones’ Art Gallery, Sydney. Begins work on Wimmera paintings.
1951 Visit to Central Australia
1954-56 Works on commission for a ceramic pylon, Olympic Swimming Pool, Melbourne
1957 Begins series of ‘half-caste’ Bride paintings
1958 Represents Australia (with Sir Arthur Streeton) at Venice Biennale
1959 Signs Antipodean Manifesto, along with David Boyd, Blackman, Brack, Dickerson, Perceval Pugh and Bernard Smith.
1960 Beginning of a period of overseas travel and overseas exhibiting. First show at Zwemmer Gallery, London.
1966 Starts Nebuchadnezar paintings
1971 First visit to Bundanon (which he purchases in 1979). Bundanon is later declared a Wildlife Refuge, and subsequently donated by Boyd to the people of Australia.
1979 Awarded the Order of Australia (AO) for services to art
1984 Begins Bather series of paintings
1986 Subject of a feature film made for London Weekend Television
1988 Represents Australia at 43rdVenice Biennale
1993-94 Major retrospective, AGNSW, Sydney
1995 Australian of the Year
1999 Named ‘Australian Legend’ by Australia Post. Dies in April.
Exhibited paintings, prints, drawings and ceramics widely in Australia and internationally throughout his career, until his death in 1999.


Has had more than 120 solo exhibitions in Australia and overseas, including representing Australia at Venice Biennale in 1958 and 1988.


1963 Henry Caselli Richards Prize, Brisbane
1971 Britannica Australia Award
1971-72 Creative Art Fellowship, Australian National University (ANU), Canberra
1979 Order of Australia (OA) for services to art
1992 Companion of the Order of Australia


Works by this Artist