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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 AC OBE

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

Betty Burstall AO (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, 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 off-Broadway theatre in New York, where she lived in the mid-1960s. Local actors, writers, directors, poets and musicians were encouraged to use the space for innovative, small-scale productions, providing an outlet for groundbreaking Australian theatre and fostering writers like David Williamson, Jack Hibberd and Tes Lyssiotis. Artistic director Liz Jones took over in the 1970s and La Mama still exists today.

Arthur Boyd produced few formal portraits but painted this work in the 1940s when Betty and Tim were regular visitors to his family's property in Murrumbeena. Boyd depicted Betty with flushed cheeks, lost in thought. He also used Betty's distinctive face in his religious paintings in the late 1940s, and in his murals at The Grange.

Purchased 1998
© Arthur Boyd
Arthur Boyd's work reproduced with the permission of the Bundanon Trust

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Arthur Boyd AC OBE (age 25 in 1945)

Betty Burstall AO (age 19 in 1945)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

The Companion

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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.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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