David Boyd Controversial Australian Artist Dies Aged 87

David Boyd

David Boyd, the artist who courted controversy with his works depicting the suffering of Australia’s indigenous peoples, has died in Sydney at 87

Award-winning Australian artist David Boyd, and brother to famous landscape artist Arthur Boyd, has died in Sydney aged 87. A painter and ceramicist, Boyd  was awarded an OAM for his services to art, which included the development of ground-breaking glazing techniques. He is exhibited in the National Gallery of Australia and in a large number international museums and collections.

David Boyd began his artistic life as a potter in the 1940s, becoming known by 1956 as one of Australia’s leading ceramicists. But in 1957 Boyd’s practice underwent a radical transformation, as he took up the paint brush and created a series of highly controversial paintings that focused on the tragic history of the Tasmanian aborigines.

In a September 2004 art review, Alex McDonald of State of the Arts magazine commented that David Boyd’s work was ‘ahead of his time in addressing the mistreatment of Indigenous people in Australia’, and explained how ‘his frosty reception from Australian critics and dealers may have something to do with his choice of subject matter’: the ‘legal system, race relations and religion’ were are ‘not exactly popular issues’ and were simply ‘not up for debate in the late 1950s’. This would not, however, hinder later commercial success and critical acclaim, and between 1993-1996 Boyd was artist-in-residence at the School of Law, Macquarie University, Sydney.

David Boyd was a member of the Boyd artistic dynasty that began in 1886 with the marriage of then-established painters Emma Minnie à Beckett (known as Minnie) and Arthur Merric Boyd. Their second-born son William Merric Boyd married Doris Gough and had five artistic children, Lucy Boyd, Arthur Boyd, Guy Boyd, David Boyd, and Mary Boyd. In 1948 David Boyd married Hermia Lloyd-Jones, the daughter of graphic artists Herman and Erica Lloyd-Jones. And, following the tradition of their family, their three daughters Amanda, Lucinda, and Cassandra are all artists.

Boyd is survived by two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.



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