The former director of the National Gallery of Australia, Betty Churcher, said from Melbourne last night that an era almost died with him – “only John Perceval and Bert [Tucker] remain”.
Along with the late Sir Sidney Nolan, Boyd belonged to “one of the most distinguished groups anywhere in the world”.
“What was happening in Australia in those immediate postwar years – from 1946 to 1950 – was as significant as what was then happening in America, but because we were so far away, not as noticeable. And Arthur Boyd was, of course, central to it.”
Churcher said Boyd was an “artist of continual regeneration” whose sympathetic personality often belied the sort of imagery he put down on canvas. In his foreword to the 1993 Boyd retrospective, the director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Edmund Capon, wrote: “Few Australian artists have cast their vision across so broad a landscape of ideas and traditions, both real and mythological, as Arthur Boyd, and few have sustained their creative powers with such force and energy.”
In 1964 Boyd said: “The ultimate aim of any artist, I suppose, would be to be a very good artist, if not the best. But as you get older of course this prospect recedes and you may have to be satisfied with being something less. I suppose my ultimate aim would be to paint the Great Picture, or if not the great one, then some very good ones.”
In 1975 Boyd gave to the National Gallery of Australia 2,000 paintings, drawings, prints and ceramics, representing the bulk of what he still possessed of his own work.
In 1993 the Federal Government formally accepted the gift of his property Bundanon in the Shoalhaven.
The Herald’s art critic, John McDonald, writes: It was strangely appropriate to learn about Arthur’s death on Anzac Day, since his loyalty to his native country was very strong. Despite the many years spent living in Suffolk, there can have been few artists more determined to find deep, abiding symbols for the Australian experience. A generous, warm person, a myth-maker of unrivalled force, he has left an indelible mark on the art of this century.