Wimmera Landscape, c.1950 signed 'Arthur Boyd' lower right tempera on composition board 58.0 x 88.0cm (22 13/16 x 34 5/8in).
PROVENANCE Australian Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso) Lieutenant Colonel C.P. Dawnay, United Kingdom, acquired from the above in 1957 Thence by descent Private collection, United Kingdom
Arthur Boyd painted his Wimmera landscapes largely between the years 1948 to 1951 when he made a number of painting trips to North West Victoria and the Grampians. They are bookended by two defining groups of work, namely the teaming post war biblical scenes of the mid to late 1940s and the Bride series, commenced in 1955. The first works of the series such as Midday, the Wimmera 1948/49 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) were painted with rich impasto in oil but Boyd soon found that tempera enabled him to create a translucence and flatness, which perfectly expressed the dry golden pastures typical of the region. Wimmera Landscape c. 1950 painted in egg tempera contains all of the key iconographic elements of the series and probably depicts the same property as Irrigation lake, Wimmera 1950 purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria the year it was painted. They both share that same characteristic spare empty landscape with a solitary farmer at work, a flock of cockatoos overhead taking flight above the dam and a delicately painted foreground replete with wildflowers, native grasses and thistles drying out under the midday sun. All painted with the soft, mellow palette of dusty late summer in the Wimmera.
The time leading up to Boyd's first trip to Horsham with the poet Jack Stephenson, which sparked this series, was a busy and crowded time in his life. He had been discharged from the army with John Perceval in 1944 and returned to live at 'Open Country', the Boyd family property in Murrumbeena, where he established the Arthur Merric Boyd Pottery workshop alongside other artists and friends. In 1945 he married Yvonne Lennie and he began to paint a remarkable series of works based on the books of the Old Testament. Intense and teeming with impassioned and, at times frightful human activity, Boyd left no inch of open space in these works, which include the 1945 works The mockers (Art Gallery of New South Wales) and The mourners (private collection). His daughter Polly and later his son Jamie were born and the family spent time at his uncle Martin Boyd's property, The Grange in Harkaway, where Boyd embarked on an expansive mural project. The Wimmera works lie in stark contrast to the Old Testament works in terms of their empty space and restrained palette. It is as though Boyd had left the intensity of the immediate post war period behind him and took a restorative deep breath in the clear space of the North Western corner of Victoria and exhaled to produce works of great stillness such as this work, Wimmera Landscape.
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