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David Boyd (1924-2011) was the younger brother of iconic Australian artist Arthur Boyd (1920-99). He garnered extraordinary popularity and critical success as a ceramicist, painter and printmaker, and as a key member of the Boyd artistic dynasty, has left an indelible mark on 20th century Australian art. Boyd is perhaps best loved for his colourful, joyful landscapes that have been a favourite amongst Australian art collectors for many years. These landscapes, with their glowing golden light set against rich blue skies, have an enduring appeal with Australian audiences for they offer up a different and idealistic view of the local landscape which has been so well documented by artists over the past two centuries.

After serving in the Second World War, Boyd commenced studies at the National Gallery School in Melbourne on an ex-servicemans grant. On completion of his studies he joined his brother Guy Boyd (1923-88) at the Martin Boyd Pottery Studio in Sydney, latter establishing his own pottery studio in London. By then a successful ceramicist Boyd began painting seriously in the mid fifties with a controversial series of symbolic paintings that caused a furor at the time, focusing as they did on the tragic history of the Tasmanian Aborigines. Notable among this series is Truganini a Dream of Childhood 1958-9 in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

This series was followed by a second based around the mythology surrounding Australias famed explorers Robert OHara Burke (1820-61) and William John Wills (1834-61) and their ill-fated mission and untimely deaths in the inhospitable Australian outback. This series represents the foundation of his career and became the intellectual platform for his formative years as a painter. For Boyd, what drove this series was his simple desire to use the predicaments of historical Australian figures to express timeless human aspirations and human folly.1 In Burke and Wills he found the perfect subject. Though he also represented explorers George Bass (1771-1803), Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) and John Gilbert (1812-45), the Burke and Wills images are the most iconic. Boyd was particularly fascinated by the mythology surrounding Burke, and the senselessness of his death. Of his representations of Burke, Boyd has said Although I presented the explorers as madmen, I was also conscious of the fact they had great courage. Burke was a brave man but he was an arrogant fool of a man who would not accept the advice of the Aborigines. Burke had courage but madness; bravery but savagery. In fact the whole box and dice!2

Explorer Thrown 1957 is from this important series, and offers a powerful representation of this tragic figure. Many Australian artists have explored Burke and Wills, but few have captured the agonising end of the explorers life as evocatively as Boyd does here. Swallowed by the cracked, dry earth, which glows like hot embers, the explorer is depicted in the last agonising moments of life: his body contorted, hand outstretched in prayer, eyes up cast towards the heavens. In the distance, set against the unforgiving twilight sky of blue and black tones, is the tiny white silhouette of his horse rearing up on its hind legs, bridle flapping. Amongst this ominous scene the horse looks rather more like a ghost. Boyds explorer is doomed.

1. Amadio, N., David Boyd: The Passionate Journey, May Street Galleries, Sydney, 2004, p.18
2. Ibid., p.17

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