Bride and Bluebird, 1960-62 signed 'Arthur Boyd' lower right oil on hardboard 108.0 x 128.5cm (42 1/2 x 50 9/16in).
PROVENANCE The Boyd Family Collection, London Savill Galleries, Sydney Private collection, Sydney Australian & International Fine Art, Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 8 September 2004, lot 33 Private collection, Melbourne
EXHIBITED Arthur Boyd: The Spirit of Australia: Works dating from 1938-1990, Savill Galleries, Sydney, 17 October 16 November 1996, cat. 10 (illus. ) Modern, Traditional, Contemporary, Gould Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney, 22 February - 23 March 2003, cat. 24 (illus.)
The Bluebird of Happiness, a universal image with its origins in pre-modern China, was the messenger bird of a Tang Dynasty goddess whose dominion was the protection of 'singing girls, dead women, novices, nuns, adepts and priestesses...women [who] stood outside the roles prescribed for women.'1 Certainly Arthur Boyd's Brides, echoes and phantoms either floating above the landscape or reflected in nocturnal pools, are removed from conventional societal structures. The Bride does not marry, but rather undergoes a series of transformations and finally, in Bride with Lover, 1960 transmutes into a windmill.
The bride, here with her attendant bluebird, is a powerful image within Boyd's complex personal iconography, recurring and haunting both her groom and the tangled, difficult landscape. Belonging to a group of works completed after the series, Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-caste, Franz Philipp referred to the works as forming an 'epilogue of mood', less concerned with narrative. Here the bride is less solid, more painterly, belonging to a dream-world where she is a phantom, barely tethered by her veil to the world. Franz Philipp describes these phantasm works as 'it is thus in doubled unreality, echo of an echo, that the Bride appears and reappears in the 'epilogue' paintings: as reflection in creek and pool, as the ectoplasm-like cocoon of the veiled head, hanging from the tree-tops or rising out of the camp fire, she haunts the dreamer.' 2
1 Suzanne Cahill, "Performers and Female Taoist Adepts," Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 106, No. 1, Sinological Studies, p. 155-168 2 Franz Philipp, Arthur Boyd, Thames and Hudson, London, 1967, p. 86
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