Australian painter Arthur Boyd painted his 'Half-Caste Bride’ series in the 1950s, drawing international attention to his work. Art curator Barry Pearce explains how Boyd’s exposure to European painters like Goya gave him a new perspective on his own work. Summary by Damien Parer.
A portrait of Australian painter Arthur Boyd (1920 – 1999). Born into a family of painters, writers and potters in 1920, his paintings are displayed in galleries all over Australia and overseas. Themes in his paintings include man’s inhumanity to man and the vastness of the Australian landscape. Edmund Capon, Director of the Art Gallery of NSW and Barry Pearce the Senior Curator of Australian Art at the same gallery are both interviewed and Australian satirist Barry Humphries performs his ode to Boyd. Boyd is one of Australia’s best known painters and was Australian of the Year in 1995.
Notes by Damien Parer
This clip shows the emergence of Arthur Boyd as a painter of international regard, through his series of paintings called Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-caste, also known as the 'Bride’ series. A series of close-ups and details of early Boyd paintings with voice-over narration describe Boyd’s development as a painter in Australia and in London. Barry Pearce, Head Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales since 1978, describes Boyd’s trip to London and the success of his first overseas exhibition. A photograph of Boyd as a young man is shown.
Notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
This clip starts approximately 40 minutes into the documentary.
We see paintings from the ‘Half-Caste Bride’ series.
Narrator The desire for a wider vision stimulates a painting trip to the dry farming region of the Wimmera. In 1951, a journey to Central Australia totally alters the painter’s direction. Dry Creek Bed, Near Alice Springs with Aboriginal Children, 1953 – the beginning of the allegorical ‘Half-Caste Bride’ series.
Barry Pearce, art curator is interviewed in his office overlooking a harbour. The office is filled with photographs of Boyd and his work. We hear Barry’s narration as we see close-ups of the pictures of the ‘Bride’ series.
Barry These ‘Bride’ paintings are important, uh, not just because they were so different from anything else he’d done before, but they really launched him internationally. These are the paintings that he took to London with him, had his first exhibition with them in London at the Zwemmer Gallery in 1960, and the critics reviewed them with a lot of fascination and a lot of praise. He was seen as the Antipodean Chagall. So this is really the turning point in his career.
He’d been able to go to London because his dealers, Tom and Anne Purves who established the Australian galleries in the late 1950s, had given him some money to go abroad and to look at the art in the museums that he was always looking at in books up until then. So it was his first trip away from Australia. He goes to London, he looks at the art in the museums, he um, goes to Europe, and the plan was to come back to Australia in a few months. But as uh, everybody knows now, he became Australia’s most famous expatriate artist because he settled down in England and stayed there for the next 10 or 11 years.
One of the interesting consequences of going abroad and taking these ‘Bride’ paintings with him was that, once he saw the work of Goya, that he felt that the ‘Bride’ paintings could have been much more powerful in communicating their content. In fact, Arthur came to regard the ‘Bride’ series as quite tame in comparison with the same kind of painting that he saw in Europe, or when he looked at artists who were interested in the same kind of dark subject matter.
Narrator The ancient dreaming of the Australian Aborigines merges with the complex mythology of Europe. The paintings of Titian inspire an image of the chaste goddess, Diana. Actaeon, the hunter in Greek folklore, is transformed into a stag.