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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Betty Burstall, 1945

Arthur Boyd

oil on canvas (frame: 88.5 cm x 72.4 cm, support: 80.0 cm x 64.0 cm)

Betty Burstall AM (1926–2013) played a vital role in the development of theatre in Australia. Born in Queensland and raised in Melbourne, she commenced an Arts degree at the University of Melbourne in the 1940s, but was expelled on becoming pregnant to her boyfriend, Tim Burstall (1927–2004), later to become an influential filmmaker. They married in 1946 and shortly afterwards moved to Eltham north-east of Melbourne where Betty worked at the local high school as a French and English teacher. In 1967, she founded La Mama in Carlton, an independent theatre modeled on the original in New York. Local actors, writers, directors, poets and musicians were encouraged to use the space for innovative, small-scale productions, thus providing an outlet for ground-breaking Australian theatre and fostering writers like David Williamson, Jack Hibberd and Tes Lyssiotis. One of the inaugural appointees to the Australia Council, Burstall was named a Member of the Order of Australia in 1993 for her contribution to the performing arts. Following her death, aged eighty-seven in June 2013, a group of Australian writers donated funds toward the establishment of the Betty Burstall Commission, which is to be awarded annually to an emerging playwright.

Arthur Boyd (1920–1999), painter, potter and printmaker was amongst Australia’s great twentieth-century artists. The son of Merric and Doris Boyd, both painters and ceramicists, Boyd took up art at a young age, later studying at the National Gallery School and informally with his grandfather, Arthur Merric Boyd, a noted landscape painter. A member of the group of artists that included John Perceval and Albert Tucker, Boyd held his first solo exhibition in the late 1930s, becoming known for landscapes and mythical subjects executed in his distinct, expressive style. Boyd produced few formal portraits, but painted this work in the 1940s when Burstall was a regular visitor to his family’s property. He also used her distinctive face in his religious paintings in the late 1940s, and in his murals at The Grange.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 1998
© Arthur Boyd
Arthur Boyd's work reproduced with the permission of the Bundanon Trust

Accession number: 1998.9

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Arthur Boyd (age 25 in 1945)

Betty Burstall AO (age 19 in 1945)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Arthur Boyd's studio
Arthur Boyd's studio
Arthur Boyd's studio
Arthur Boyd's studio

Boyd to man

Magazine article by Dr Christopher Chapman, 2016

Christopher Chapman looks at influences and insight in the formative years of Arthur Boyd.

Self Portrait in red shirt, 1937 by Arthur Boyd
Self Portrait in red shirt, 1937 by Arthur Boyd
Self Portrait in red shirt, 1937 by Arthur Boyd
Self Portrait in red shirt, 1937 by Arthur Boyd

Arthur as Alyosha?

Magazine article by Patrick McCaughey, 2015

Patrick McCaughey explores a striking Boyd self portrait.

Artist and wife near Arthurs Seat, 1969
Artist and wife near Arthurs Seat, 1969
Artist and wife near Arthurs Seat, 1969
Artist and wife near Arthurs Seat, 1969

Through blue eyes

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

Works by Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan bring the desert, the misty seashore and the hot Monaro plains to exhibition Open Air: Portraits in the landscape.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.