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Mysterious eyes

Arthur Boyd portraits from 1945

Daily from Wednesday 4 May 2016 until Sunday 14 August 2016
Self portrait, 1945-46 Arthur Boyd
Self portrait, 1945-46 Arthur Boyd

A young man whose soft features betrayed the intensity of his own self-image, Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) portrayed others with equally concentrated emotion. He would become one of Australia’s most loved and renowned artists.

Prickly hot summers and wet winters, long grass and overgrown gardens alive with insects imprinted young Arthur’s brain. His protection of the family’s chickens earned him the affectionate nick-name chookie-boy, his shaggy hair and mended clothes marked him as different from the other school kids.

Arthur’s extended family was loving and accepted everyone’s quirks. The value of artistic exploration was natural to generations of Boyds. Adolescent Arthur’s warm and light landscape paintings had morphed into darker expressionistic heads by his late teens.

At age 25 Arthur produced a burst of portraits of those close to him, and through his eyes they are a reflection of the artist’s own state of mind.

For this focus exhibition five portraits from around 1945 have been borrowed from the National Gallery of Australia (Douglas Woods, Pauline Ford, Ian Bassett, Stanley Holt and Carl Cooper, all Arthur Boyd Gift 1975) along with Boyd’s portrait of his wife Yvonne from the Bundanon Trust, to complement three held by the National Portrait Gallery.

4 portraits

1Carl Cooper, 1945-46. 2Betty Burstall, 1945. 3Arthur Boyd’s studio (1945, not dated) by Albert Tucker.

Related people

Arthur Boyd

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal people, the traditional custodians of the land upon which the NPG stands.