‘Landscape Artist’ or ‘Champion of the Landscape’?

The patchwork colours on a World Atlas set out all the nation-states that carve up the surface of the globe. But national borders come and go and so on a more humanist level, there are only three divisions of the earth’s surface that will really count in the end.

The first are the cityscapes that house that vast majority of modern humanity, the second the rural landscapes that have been tamed to sustain us and, the “third landscape” is what French author Gilles Clément describes as “the sum of the space left over by man“ as a “genetic reservoir” for future generations. Of course, for those who are blind to the plight of their children or grandchildren these ‘pristine environments’ offer a short-term opportunity to make money, which is sadly why in the real world they are rapidly being eaten away from the edges.

However, in a ‘lucky’ country as vast as Australia there are still ‘uninviting’ tracts of land that have avoided excessive human development. But Australia’s “third landscape” can certainly be unforgiving for those that wander off the beaten track, so when the acclaimed Australian artist Arthur Boyd returned home from Europe and set up a bush retreat at Bundanon on the Shoalhaven River in 1978 he had great difficulty capturing its soul in his works. Boyd eventually found succour with the ‘foreign’ environment by flipping the colour palate and his paintings from his ‘Shoalhaven Series’ veered from the murky tones often associated with the Australian Bush.

Unlike the early iconic Australian artists like ‘Roberts’ and ‘Streeton’ who studiously tried to capture the unique colours of the Australian sky and land, Boyd ramped up the colour scheme as is evident in his painting “Indigo Blue and Grey Landscape” featured in our sale.

If on a continuum you were to place the realism of the ‘Roberts’ and ‘Streeton’ landscapes at the centre, then to the far left you would find a lifeless photo negative of nature while to the far right would sit Boyd’s Art. And like a photo negative, Boyd’s paintings require intense focus to pick out detail, thus drawing you in. What can first appear as broad daubs of iridescent paint placed haphazardly on a surface can suddenly transform into recognisable aspects of the harsh Australian Landscape for those who have trekked it. What visitor to the Australian Bush in drought cannot feel the shivers for the environment as they gaze on the underbelly of scattered rock and twisted vegetation on an exposed riverbank? Cue “Indigo Blue and Grey Landscape.”

However, Boyd understood that nature in art is a pale imitation of the real thing, and so in 1993 in a prescient statement on the environment, he bequeathed his Shoalhaven property to the nation hoping to ring-fence it from the land grubbers.

It is little wonder that Arthur Boyd was considered one of the great thinkers in Australian Art. His compelling works including those from his ‘Shoalhaven Series’ have found a home in major State and National galleries and sell regularly for six-figure sums.

In our upcoming Sale 46, Smalls Auctions offers Boyd’s “Indigo Blue and Grey Landscape” a unique opportunity to acquire an affordable ‘Boyd’ from his famous ‘Shoalhaven Series.’


Auction 46 Highlights