Thursday, January 14, 2010

Anna Pavlova, the Boyd Art Dynasty and Me - Tenuous Family Connections

Jug with Grapes 1915

Around 1900, my maternal grandfather bought four adjacent plots of land in the Melbourne suburb of Murrumbeena - one for his new home, one for a tennis court, one to graize a cow on ... and the last block he sold to potter Merric Boyd (1888-1959), who was known in the early C20 as 'The King of Australian Potters' ...

Merric Boyd in his Pottery at 'Open Country' 1914

'Open Country' - The Boyd Family Home and Pottery at Murrumbeena c1913

... and who was to become the patriarch of an artistic family dynasty - of painters (David, Penleigh and most famously Arthur, among others) and writers, such as Martin Boyd whose four-part series - including 'The Cardboard Crown' (1952) and 'An Outbreak of Love' (1957) - explored cross-cultural issues of the Anglo-Australian experience).

This sale of land lead to a long but tenuous connection for our family with the Boyds.

Merric Boyd's pottery combined the organic natural fluid forms of the Art Nouveau with the hand-made aesthetic of the English Arts and Crafts Movement, all within an Australian idiom and iconography ...

Pot, 1921

Vase with eucalypt, 1925

Pot with windswept branches, 1925

Vase with Apples, 1931

Jug with tree trunk handle, 1926

Form, 1931

Pot with koala, 1932

Lamp, 1931

Teapot, 1947

The joy of this pottery is, in part, its rough-hewn quality - as opposite to the refined finish aimed for in fine porcelain.

Now, the first incident in this Boyd connection that I know of concerned Anna Pavlova - quite a good start for a long-term relationship!

My mother tells of her very great excitement as a child when, in 1929, she and her sisters saw the legendary dancer arriving at the Boyd's house for a portrait sitting - a Wedgwood-like vase frieze ...

Pavlova toured Australia in 1926 and then again in 1929 ...

Anna Pavlova, Sydney, 1929

The next incident - in the early 1930s - occurred when Merric asked my mother to sit for him, producing one of his few earthenware portraits in the round ...

... another, ten years earlier, being that of his son Arthur ...

Portrait of Arthur Boyd aged three, 1923

The Boyds were notoriously eccentric - so there were other (many) more simply observed incidents, including removal of the internal roof supports to create an extra room (with rather predictably disastrous results) and setting much of the back of the property alight with over zealous kiln firing.

In the early 1940's, my mother briefly and unsatisfactorily dated Arthur - certainly another incident!

Arthur Boyd, 1945

The final-ish incident occurred when my parents married and Merric pottered them this beautiful inscribed vase as a wedding present ...

The only Boyd incidents these days ... are seeing their now highly priced art work in auctions catalogues!

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