Arthur BOYD
Australia, 1920-1999
worked England, Italy, and Australia, from 1959

Four times of day: Morning, Pulpit Rock, 1982
oil on canvas
123.0 x 153.0 cm
inscribed lower right: Arthur Boyd

Ursula Hoff, The art of Arthur Boyd, London, 1986, p.212, illustrated, p.246.

Although Arthur Boyd left Australia for London in 1959, his memory of the Australian landscape remained a significant aspect of his art. It evolved into a major presence in later paintings which depicted mythology or legends from other cultures.

In his earliest English paintings the source of his landscape was less identifiable and the figures that populated it drawn from mythology and the imagery of the Old Masters seen for the first time on visits to European art museums. His love of the Australian landscape remained strong, but it was not until 1968 that Boyd first returned to Australia. After that he visited regularly and paintings with Australian landscape references were once again a significant aspect of his painting.

In 1971 Boyd was a guest of Frank McDonald, a Sydney art dealer, at Bundanon, a house he jointly owned with Sandra McGrath, art critic for the Australian, and her husband Tony, a stockbroker and merchant banker. The 1866 stone farm house was built close to the Shoalhaven River, south of Kangaroo Valley and inland from Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales.

In the following year, again visiting from London, Boyd painted his first open-air sketch on the Shoalhaven. After returning to London Boyd painted a series of Shoalhaven landscapes and in 1973 bought, Riversdale, a property adjoining Bundanon. After extensive renovations Boyd first lived there in May 1975 and began exhibiting his Shoalhaven landscapes. In 1979 Boyd purchased Bundanon which becomes his Australian home. In 1993 the property was gifted to the Australian people and the Bundanon Trust established.

From the early 1970s the Shoalhaven River and its surrounding landscape becomes one of the most important subjects of Boyd’s painting. Of these paintings, four, known as Four times of day, 1982, are the most significant. They depict a small rocky outcrop on the Shoalhaven opposite the Bundanon homestead. In Boyd’s paintings the rock assumes a monumental scale and suggests some of the mysterious quality associated with local Aboriginal mythology. In the first painting in the series, Early morning, before sunrise, Pulpit Rock, the Rock and its mirrored reflection in the river is almost black and silhouetted against a pale silvery light of early morning. In Morning, Pulpit Rock, the second in the series, the morning sunlight of a summer day bathes most of the Rock in golden light while some remains in shadow. The clear sky and the stillness of the river suggest the heat of the day to come. In the third painting, Midday, the sky is a clear blue, the reflected landscape shimmers and only a few rocks on the hillside are defined as they catch the full rays of the almost blinding sunlight. In the last painting, Evening, the Rock is once again reflected clearly in the water on which a swan rests. The respite of evening follows a hot summer day.

Throughout his career Boyd draws upon the subjects of literature and the imagery of the Old Masters and painters he admired. Among Boyd’s most beautiful Shoalhaven landscapes, the Four times of day series were undoubtedly inspired by his knowledge of the work of other painters who have painted series in which the same subject, particularly a landscape, is depicted at various times of the day and in different light conditions. They include J.M.W. Turner the English landscape painter, and the French Impressionist, Claude Monet, and the Post-Impressionist, Paul Cezanne.

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