David Boyd

'Boyd is a world class artist whose work always causes a definite emotional reaction from his public. Always true to his thoughts and feelings he remains a distinguished Australian artist' -Bernard Smith, during his time as Professor of Contemporary Art Sydney University

Born in Melbourne 1924, David Boyd was a distinguished Australian artist, craftsman and member of the Boyd artistic dynasty. He was well known as both a potter and painter, tutored from an early age within the remarkable creativity of the family circle.

Art was not David’s only gift, he also loved the piano. In 1941, aged 17, he entered the Melba Memorial Conservatorium, but just one year later he enlisted in the army and served in Australia until 1944. When he returned he studied art at the National Gallery School on an ex-servicemans grant.

Originally a potter David and his wife Hermia began a studio together which they later took with them to London in the fities. Soon after his return, David was elected councillor of the Museum of Modern Art, and also elected Chairman of the Contemporary Art Society, Victoria. His painting career exploded in 1957 with a series of symbolic paintings on the Australian explorers. The exhibition was met with great controversy due to the emotive depiction of the horrific injustices inflicted upon Tasmian aboriginals.

As well as a painter and potter David was also an accomplished print maker and produced many etching, colloblocks, silkscreens and lithographs. His works resonate with powerful imagery. They are concerned with innocence and evil, destruction and creation, depicting the themes of the universe and mythology. With his reputation as a significant artist beginning to establish, the Commonwealth Institute of Art in London held a retrospective of his paintings at their gallery in 1969.

The Legend of Europa and the Cockatoo, in David’s Words

The Legend of Europa and the Cockatoo is dedicated to my brother, Arthur Boyd, in appreciation of his generosity to the Australian people and his affection for cockatoos. Unlike the various Trial series of paintings which used the visual language to express ideas about a fundamental and disturbing feature of the human condition, The Legend of Europa and the Cockatoos are presented as an entertaining parable. The following background notes may be of interest to people curious about how the series evolved. Late in 1994 I was working on some pastels called Music and the Angels. Because of the wings and the expression on the faces of the angel musicians, the pastels evoked the spirit of the Baroque rather than the exhilarating frenzy of 20th century rock music. Suddenly in December, following the opening of the new second north south runway and the closure of the main east west at Sydney Airport, the roar of jet aircraft ascending north in increasing frequency above my studio or the whining scream as they approached to land, completely drown the music of the angels. Putting aside their instruments they gazed sadly upwards or out of the picture. I have kept the angel that first appeared thus. It is called "Angel Listening to the Roar of Jets over Sydney Australia". The painting belongs to the artists collection, on occasion is included, on loan, to selected exhibitions. What has does the above got to do with a winged figure chasing cockatoos? An idea can have its genesis in unexpected ways. Since boyhood I had not given a great deal of thought to airplanes, but now with huge jet machines constantly roaring overhead it become impossible to ignore this wonder of modern technology. To draw or paint pictures of the things would keep their menacing shape in the forefront of the mind; it happened that waiting amongst a stack of pencil drawings from the 1960's was a sketch of a winged figure running through the bush land. The title, "Europa Fleeing from a Bushfire", instantly kindled an idea. Why not! I thought. There is a link there, remote from jumbo jets but enough to set the imagination on fire. Using the drawings as reference I painted a winged figure running to gain speed, as a pelican does before rising. There followed other pictures of a related configuration - such as Europa falling above an inland sea or leaning against the rough back of a wombat while star gazing. At night she dreams that she is frolicking with the cockatoos. Sometimes her dreams are hounded by a sacred golden-plumed wombat sitting on her belly or the rarely seen black cockatoo. Her days are fully occupied chasing sulphur crested white cockatoos. Europa has fashioned herself a pair of solid gold wings but the weight of them prevents her from flying. She pursues the cockatoos because she believes their crests are made of the purest gold. She is convinced that if she captures the birds and enlarges her wings with their crests she will achieve the exhilarating freedom of flight. Europa is not successful until, from a hiding place in a wattle tree, she preys on the unsuspecting birds, grasping their crests when they fly close. Over a period of the hundred and seven years she gradually enlarges her wings. Alas, with each new crest she adds to the wings the heaver they become. The day arrives when she can no longer run or even move for she is crushed beneath the weight of her now mighty gold wings.