Princess of Shoalhaven signed 'Arthur Boyd' lower right oil on composition board 121 x 90cm (47 5/8 x 35 7/16in).
PROVENANCE: Australian + International Fine Art, Deutscher Menzies, Melbourne, 13 September 2006, lot 60 Private Collection, Sydney
The Princess of Shoalhaven paintings were painted around 1978 after Boyd was commissioned to do a series of lithographs based on stories by the Russian author and poet, Alexander Pushkin. In Boyd's painting, he depicts The Kingdom of the East, the setting of Pushkin's work, The Golden Cockerel. It tells the story of the hapless Tsar Dodon who is entranced by the beautiful but treacherous Princess Shamakhan. Under her powerful influence, he finds himself handing over his kingdom to her. Still under her spell, the Tsar marries the Princess and takes her back to his kingdom, where his astrologer demands that the Tsar give him the Queen in return for the golden cockerel which he had given the Tsar to forewarn of any danger. The Tsar refuses and strikes the astrologer with his staff, killing him. Soon after, the golden cockerel pecks the Tsar, and he falls to his death.
Arthur Boyd's love affair with the Shoalhaven River began in the summer of 1971 when he visited Bundanon, one of the most important houses in the district. The beautiful sandstone house was surrounded by rich grazing flats with views to the river and cliffs beyond. At the time, Bundanon was owned by the art dealer Frank McDonald, who had invited the Boyds to spend the weekend painting at his home. Here, Boyd describes the feeling of his first experience of the Shoalhaven, "I can remember the day vividly. It was so hot and searing the oil ran from the palette onto the sand. I never paint in the shade or wear a hat because it distorts the light on whatever I'm painting. I can remember the heat was terrifying."1
The Boyds purchased the Shoalhaven homestead Riversdale in 1973 sight unseen whilst still living in England. They returned to Australia in 1976 to live in Riversdale and in 1979 purchased Bundanon from Frank McDonald, who had failed to interest the State Government in converting the homestead into a regional museum. The family's move to the Shoalhaven would provide Boyd with an unprecedented source of inspiration, it would become one of his most loved and revisited subjects. The creative surge which resulted in Arthur Boyd's contact with the Australian bush after such a long absence was remarkable; in just over a year, he had painted over seventy works of the landscape.
Boyd had a deep love and affinity with Bundanon and the majestic Shoalhaven, however, he believed that his magical place should inherently belong to the people of Australia. In the early 1980s, Boyd offered the properties to the Australian Government and after nearly ten years of bureaucratic delays, his long-held dream was fulfilled. Boyd had hoped that the natural beauty of Bundanon and Riversdale would be preserved for the inspiration of future generations. The public now has the privilege of visiting the Boyd's home and can experience the landscape which provided the inspiration behind such an iconic and compelling group of works.
1 Arthur Boyd, quoted in Sandra McGrath, The Artist and the River, Bay Books Sydney, 1982, p. 20