Card Players, c.1955-57 signed 'arthur Boyd' lower right painted and glazed ceramic tile 29.5 x 44.5cm (11 5/8 x 17 1/2in).
PROVENANCE Mr and Mrs W. A. K. a'Beckett, Melbourne Thence by descent Private collection, Melbourne Important Australian Art, Sotheby's, Melbourne, 11 April 2006, lot 12 Private collection, Melbourne
EXHIBITED Arthur Boyd, Whitechapel Gallery, London, June - July 1962, cat. 168
LITERATURE Franz Philipp, Arthur Boyd, Thames & Hudson, London, 1967, cat. 6.78, pp. 71-72
RELATED WORKS Arthur Boyd, Shearers Playing for a Bride, 1957, oil and tempera on canvas, 150.1 x 175.7cm, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The early 1950's saw Arthur Boyd fully explore the possibilities of ceramic works. Boyd had a natural affinity for the medium and would hand-form the tiles before mixing coloured oxides with clay to a consistency similar to oil paint.
Margaret Pont observed of Arthur Boyd's interest in the medium 'there was, at the time, a general resistance to ceramic works which were not considered part of mainstream art practice. Arthur made no such distinctions between various mediums and could appreciate the beauty and versatility of each. He recognised the unique qualities of each medium when the necessary techniques had been fully mastered'.1 Working at a greatly reduced scale, the ceramic works and tiles in particular offered the artist unique compositional challenges; motifs and narratives are compressed, dramatic and densely rendered.
The Card Players, originally belonging to the artist's cousin, Mr W. (Bill) A. K. a'Beckett , was painted prior to Boyd's masterful Shearers playing for a Bride, 1957, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Memorable, difficult and enduring, the composition both in ceramic and canvas form revolves around what Ursula Hoff described as a 'strange Trinity of black men' 2, a motif which echoes the composition of Boyd's earlier masterpiece Abraham and the Angels, 1946. Inwardly focussed, the trio play with an intensity which excludes all else, the bride seemingly weightless as she floats above, bouquet held aloft. In both The Card Players, and oil, the bride's train is pinned beneath a player, her state reduced to that of chattel to be secured or lost on a hand of cards.
Please note this work is to be exhibited in the forthcoming exhibition 'Arthur Boyd: Brides' at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, from the 29th November 2014 - 9 March 2015.
1 Margaret Pont, Arthur Boyd & Saint Francis of Assisi, MacMillan, Melbourne, 2004, p. 21 2 Ursula Hoff, The Paintings of Arthur Boyd, Meanjin, XVII, no. 2, 1958, p. 146
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