One of Arthur Boyd’s most influential collaborators was the British art historian, T. S. R. Boase. A shared interest in biblical figures and medieval history saw them collaborate on a publication titled Nebuchadnezzar (1972).1 Boase contributed a concise history of Nebuchadnezzar, the biblical king of ancient Babylon, accompanied by eighteen drawings, and thirty-four paintings executed by Arthur Boyd between 1968 and 1971.
Boyd ignored Nebuchadnezzar’s successes, instead depicting the king’s exile and descent into madness, using the Australian bush as a desolate backdrop for his physical and psychological turmoil. The tale of Nebuchadnezzar proved extraordinarily fruitful for Boyd, who produced more works on this theme forming one of his most renowned series.
Boyd commissioned a Portuguese workshop to create tapestries of the major paintings from this collection, with White Nebuchadnezzar (Blind) and White Dog on a Starry Night (plate 26 in the original publication) the derivation of the present tapestry. Boase’s original caption accompanying this image declared, ‘The rain is over and the stars are clear in the sky above but the king blindly gropes his way, and even the beasts turn away from him.’2
This tapestry was one of six Nebuchadnezzar tapestries exhibited at Clune Galleries, Sydney, and South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne, in 1970. These tapestries demonstrate Boyd’s eagerness for experimentation and are the precursor to his St Francis of Assisi tapestries of 1972-74, in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, and his monumental Great Hall Tapestry designed for the new Parliament House in 1988.
1. Boase, T. S. R., Nebuchadnezzar: 34 Paintings and 18 Drawings by Arthur Boyd, London, Thames & Hudson, 1972
2. Ibid., n.p., pl.26