Mysterious eyes: Arthur Boyd portraits from 1945

Arthur Boyd. Self Portrait 1945-46Currently on display at Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery Mysterious eyes: Arthur Boyd portraits from 1945 is a focus exhibition of captivating portraits by renowned Australian artist, Arthur Boyd.

Consisting of nine works, the evocative display brings together a collection of portraits of individuals close to Boyd. Painted when he was 25, these portraits show how his treatment of the subjects reflected his own state of mind.

Senior Curator at the Portrait Gallery, Dr Christopher Chapman felt inspired by this period in Boyd’s life when his paintings expressed his deep psychological feelings.

“In these portraits painted by Arthur Boyd, the eyes suggest deep emotional feelings – whether they stare out at you and I, or glance away,” says Chapman.

“In young Arthur’s self-portrait his furrowed brow and steady glare convey his determined and serious look at the world. At age 25 Arthur made a series of expressionist-styled portraits of those around him. The portraits are perceptive of their subject’s character and a strong reflection of Arthur’s own view of others as individuals with intense and complex feelings.”

“The Gallery owns three portraits from this time which provided a great opportunity to show these works with others from the National Gallery and Bundanon Trust together as a survey of how Arthur viewed himself and others – as a young man.”

Arthur Boyd AC OBE (1920-99), painter, potter and printmaker, was amongst Australia’s greatest painters. Although he is better known for his landscapes and mythical subjects, and produced relatively few portraits, Boyd made a number of paintings of family and friends, all imbued with his interest in deep human truths.

The son of artists, Boyd began making paintings as a boy and developed a vigorous and expressive style. During the Second World War he made paintings depicting a grotesque and unbalanced world; several paintings inspired by early Flemish painters combined religious subjects with current events.

In the 1960s, based mainly in England, Boyd embarked on ambitious cycles of paintings based on Biblical and mythological themes. Returning to Australia in the early 1970s, he began a relationship with the landscape of the Shoalhaven River on the south coast of New South Wales.

He bought a property there, Bundanon, which he subsequently gave to the Australian people. This was his second great act of public generosity; in 1975 he made an immense gift of his own work to the National Gallery of Australia.

Mysterious eyes: Arthur Boyd portraits from 1945
National Portrait Gallery, King Edward Terrace, Parkes (Canberra)
Exhibition continues to 14 August 2016
Free admission

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Image: Arthur Boyd, Self portrait, 1945-46 oil on canvas laid on composition board (71.5 x 61.5 cm) National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Purchased with funds provided by the Liangis family 2014.