Menzies Art Brands



A distinguished member of a distinguished family, Theodore Penleigh Boyds life was characterised by a wholehearted commitment to art. He belongs to the same dynasty of prodigiously creative Boyds that include both his parents Arthur Merric (1862-1940) and Emma Minnie Boyd (1858-1936), his brother Merric (1888-1956), and his nephews Arthur (1920-1999), Guy (1923-1988) and David (1924- 2011). He was a student at the National Gallery of Victoria School from 1907-1909 and was already exhibiting at the Victorian Artists Association (VAS) Gallery in 1909, his final year. He then visited Europe where he travelled, thoroughly familiarised himself with most recent developments in Modern art, and mixed with other Australian expatriate artists such as Emanuel Philips Fox (1865-1915) and the Queenslander Edith Anderson (1880-1961), whom he married in Paris in 1912.

Boyd enjoyed early critical acclaim and success - in 1911 at the age of 21, his Spring Morning, St Ives, Cornwall had been hung at the Royal Academy in London. The couple returned to Australia from Europe in 1913 and the following year, Boyd won the Art Gallery of New South Wales Wynne Prize for landscape painting.

Boyds painting career was interrupted by the First World War. He joined the army and was only able to resume painting after he had recovered from a gas attack at Ypres and his subsequent discharge in 1918. In the years after the war he resumed his artistic career, gaining prominence as he continued to paint as well as making etchings, and through annual exhibitions at the VAS. In 1923 Penleigh Boyds life was cut short when he was killed in a car accident at the age of 33.

It is a testimony to Boyds commitment and his energy that his work continues to occupy an important place in the art of his era and held in such esteem by collectors today. His work is characterised by an inherent naturalism. Like his Sydney contemporary, Elioth Gruner (1882-1939), his vision is in one sense conservative, yet contains a distinct measure of modernism. In the year before his untimely death, a major exhibition of recent international art organised by Boyd toured to Melbourne and Sydney. The exhibition, European Contemporary Pictures, included works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) and Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958) was, however, not well received. The critical and public response to this event unsettled Boyd, the exhibition had taken place at a time when Australian appreciation of art lagged a generation behind the prevailing developments in Europe. Public comments ranged from the frankly fearful to blank derision.1 Boyds own work, poised in 1923 between tradition and modernism when seen in this light is intriguing, and we are left wondering what might have been.2  

Since his untimely death, and not only due to family connections, interest in Boyds work continues to be strong and today is gaining in popularity with collectors. His fine views of wattle covered banks of the Yarra River, of Sydney Harbour, and in particular his views of the Portsea coast on the Mornington Peninsula are amongst the most keenly sought after works of their generation.

1. Argus, Melbourne, 7 August, 1923, p12
2. McCulloch, S., McCullochs Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2006, p.277

Tim Abdallah BA

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