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April 09th 2016 print

Christopher Heathcote

Did Boyd Paint Aboriginal Genocide?

As a modernist who stood firmly against art-by-political-numbers, Arthur Boyd  has been immune to conscription by critics who wish to depict him as an advocate for their fashionable sympathies and agendas. Alas, that is no longer the case

boyd smallIn April, 1958, at Australian Galleries, the main Melbourne venue handling modern art, an exhibition opened titled “Allegorical Paintings”. These symbolic pictures charted the desperate romance of a mixed-race couple in a world united against them. Painted by Arthur Boyd, this was an invented myth which dealt with the emotional materials of great tragedy, exploring love, passion, envy, fear and intolerance.

A controversial argument has latterly been erected on those paintings, which are now referred to as the “Bride” series. This new interpretation was shaped by Anna Haebich of Curtin University, Ann McGrath of the Australian National University, and Kendrah Morgan of the Heide Museum of Modern Art.

For this trio, Boyd’s Bride series refers directly to the race crimes of an oppressive nation. Looking at the paintings, they claim to find unequivocal allusions to Aboriginal genocide, tribal massacres, government “eugenics” policies, hostility to racial intermarriage, the forced removal of native children, even indigenous health problems from atomic tests. “These works are of continuing national significance,” Haebich has contended, “for the insights they provide for a reflective society into the history of the prejudices and anxieties of white Australia and its irresistible imaginings about race and the human condition.”[1]

Arthur Boyd made a month-long trip to central Australia in 1954. He travelled from Melbourne by rail, changing trains at Adelaide and Port Augusta, then it was another three slow days to Alice Springs. His purpose was to gather visual data for paintings of a remote landscape. Boyd had already made a long trip to the Wimmera in north-west Victoria during 1950, and he was eager to visit the desert interior.

A market hungry for outback paintings had emerged in the early 1950s, and Boyd wanted to tap it. He was following the lead of two ambitious modern painters, Sidney Nolan, a good friend, and Russell Drysdale, an acquaintance and rival. Both had travelled through central and northern Australia in the previous six years, enjoying considerable success with exhibitions of desert paintings. Strong sales and media attention led to commercial shows in London. So it made sense for Boyd to visit the outback.

Boyd filled five sketchbooks, and another forty-seven loose postcards, on his rural trips of 1950 and 1954.[2] For the layman little is conveyed by the jottings. They do not show scenes. Boyd’s pencil made visual notes on a tight set of subjects: cockatoos and galahs, bare huts and shelters, isolated farmhouses, windmills, a line of dromedaries. He drew these same items with attention for certain details: the feathered pattern of a parrot’s wing, the configuration of timbers supporting a wind-bore. This was information for use in composite pictures.

boyd bride 1

Aboriginal figures seen in 1950 and 1954 intermittently appear. Several times Boyd draws a figure or two standing by a shanty, as well as gaunt mothers with infants. There is a quick diagram of three men crouched down and playing cards (a conscious echo of Cézanne’s Cardplayers), and another male trio riding in the back of a utility. All is potential scenic detail. Then, late in the fifth sketchbook, a sequence of seven pen-and-ink drawings of Aborigines appears. Three show grouped Aborigines with horses; another two depict women with buildings and a windmill; the remaining pair are quick figure notations. They are simple, direct, and without hint of pathos, the graphic outlines for possible use in rural scenes.

These drawings came from Arltunga, about 110 kilometres east of Alice Springs. Boyd paid a man with an ex-army jeep to drive him to see the Simpson Desert, and they passed through the settlement as they headed east. Boyd had already been shocked at the condition of Aborigines. Everywhere he went they seemed destitute, their families consigned to forlorn humpies clustered on the outskirts of towns. Worse still, unofficial segregation was applied on the railways as he moved into central Australia. He watched Aborigines made to ride in livestock wagons, not passenger carriages with white people; while at rail depots Aborigines used stark shelters with chicken-wire walls, being forbidden to wait alongside whites.

This essay was first published in Quadrant‘s March edition.
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But it was at his brief halt in Arltunga that Boyd was completely overwhelmed by anguish and dismay: “They are forced into this position and it has a serious effect on you, when you are not used to it,” he explained. “You suddenly come against it after imagining that they are noble savage types living in the bush.”[3] And as his friend, the art historian Franz Philipp, reflected, Boyd felt the compassion not of a reporter or a social activist, but of an artist.[4] The memory of this destitute community amidst rusting debris would always stay with him.

Once back in Melbourne, Arthur Boyd worked up composite landscapes. He set no great store in these at times cloying pieces: they were commercial in intent, manufactured from stock motifs to suit a market. Two of the invented views included shanties, galahs and Aboriginal figures adapted from his sketched notes.

The Contemporary Art Society’s annual exhibition was also imminent, so Boyd made a one-off modernist painting to submit for that show. Titled Half-Caste Bride, this was an experiment influenced by Marc Chagall, with a haunting jumble of out-of-scale figures and animals, some floating in the air, some fading through a shack like ghosts. Two figures were loosely derived from his outback sketchbooks.

After this oil composition Boyd ceased painting for some time. He was tied up on a public sculpture commissioned for the Melbourne Olympics. However, he was thinking out potential modernist pictures. He embarked on a run of drawings showing two lovers tormented by shadowy creatures and figures. Sometimes the lovers embrace, sometimes the girl flees. In many sketches the male lover is Aboriginal; although in fifteen pieces he is Prometheus chained to a rocky island while assailed by an eagle, a beetle, and a ram with twisting horns.[5]

Boyd did return to his easel in mid-1956, producing a new modernist oil painting, Bride Running Away, which went into a show at Peter Bray Gallery in November. It featured the sea, dark boat and fleeing girl from the Promethean drawings, with an Aboriginal male instead of a Greek hero. If the work did not sell, the artist now had it in mind to paint a series with these motifs, but he had been offered a contract at Australian Galleries. So the summer months saw him labouring over Victorian landscapes for a joint exhibition with John Perceval at that venue in April 1957. Finally, in that show’s aftermath, Boyd’s ideas crystallised into compositions of a scale and ambition rarely seen from local modern artists. He now began painting what would be the Bride series.

Symbols should not be mistaken for content. Kafka’s Metamorphosis is not about a cockroach problem in Vienna. The insect-man is a symbol. And if Arthur Boyd’s late 1960s Nebuchadnezzar paintings visualise Biblical events from the Book of Daniel, their content involves Vietnam and the unrest of 1968.

The underpinning theme for the Bride works is the plight of the outcast, the outsider, the marginalised.[6] To symbolise this Boyd revisited a subject from some 1940s pictures which featured an embracing couple taunted by spiteful, small-minded people. Now he added a twist by having the lovers caught between two faces of Australia—modern urban “white” society, and traditional tribal “black” culture—which equally treat them as outcasts.[7] If the groom appears Aboriginal and the bride seems white, each of these figures is meant to be of mixed race (signified by the bride’s dark feet or hands, and the groom’s large pink ear or white hands).[8] The series is not portraying the social or political condition of Aborigines, as Boyd later explained, nor do the paintings illustrate the actualities of outback poverty.[9] Instead it is more a poetic meditation on lovers who transgress convention and are made into outsiders.[10]

The Bride pictures are steeped in cyclical images of decay, death and regeneration. Early scenes take place in an infertile dark land that has been scorched by fire; the surroundings in another phase are austere and shadowy like the bare sets of existentialist theatre; later scenes suggest a fecund paradise with a creek trickling through a bushy gully. There is no mistaking a symbolic purpose as moody skies chart a transition, registering dusk, night or dawn. An ominous swollen moon floats in the sky of several nocturnes, and one piece features a rainbow as a sign for spiritual rebirth.

Boyd’s pictures are loaded with evocative motifs. The bride’s veil will transform into a cat’s cradle to ensnare the groom’s fingers. Rival male suitors gamble with playing cards that are all spades. Boyd’s sign for fear, a beetle, is the same green shade as the groom’s tunic.[11] And the groom is sometimes taunted by a “phantom bride”, the personification of idealised beauty.[12] Chief among this vocabulary of symbols are the bouquet of flowers, the artist’s emblem for life, hope and amorous fulfilment; and the so-called “ram-ox”, a ram with horns twisting like serpents, Boyd’s enduring sign of predatory corruption and animal lusts.

The richness and complexity of these paintings are most evident in Persecuted Lovers of 1957-58, now in the Art Gallery of South Australia. It shows in close-up the lovers reclining before vague bush, the sky illuminated by a pink dawn. The pale bride, a beetle crawling through her curling orange-red hair, lies face up on the black ground and reaches out with a blue hand. She is embraced by her blue lover, his arm reaching around her neck and through her white veil, pressing her face tightly against his own. His large eye gazes directly into hers, as a large floral posy miraculously bursts out of his pink ear. To the right a neat dark man in conventional suit, tie and hat kneels over the couple, aiming a rifle at the groom’s ear. This looming figure has his left knee placed heavily on the bride’s foot, and his right boot treads on her filmy dress. A white spider clings to his black cheek.

This mythic composition does not depict blunt social reality.[13] It transports the viewer in a slippery realm of symbols, dreams and imaginings.[14]

A new interpretation of Arthur Boyd’s Bride imagery was prompted shortly after his death in April 1999. Later that year a controversial article appeared in the Journal of Australian Studies. “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings: Boyd’s Bride Series Revisited” was written by Anna Haebich, a Curator of History at the West Australian Museum, who has since become John Curtin Distinguished Professor at Curtin University’s Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute.

Apparently impatient with the spin circulating across the media after the artist’s decease, Haebich criticised recent commentary on Boyd’s oeuvre. Much of it was superficial small talk, she justifiably complained. Fixing on the Bride paintings, she contended that these works needed to be considered in the light of 1950s attitudes towards Aborigines. There was merit to this suggestion, and it seemed timely to re-examine the Bride series.

Haebich’s discussion came in three parts. First is “Boyd’s Pilgrimage to the Centre”, that is, his visit to Central Australia in the early 1950s; then “The Creative Crucible”, which deals with Boyd’s subsequent painting of the Bride works; and last is “Responses to the Paintings”, moving from initial exhibition reviews to more considered scholarship. But these titles are deceptive, because the former two sections have little to say of the artist’s experiences and pictures. Instead, Haebich plots out the condition of Aboriginal communities in Central Australia at mid-century. This begins with the opening, “It was widely believed that”; then, having summarised perceptions of race, the discussion switches to official policies and administrative attitudes.[15] “These notions were validated in ‘expert’ administrative and anthropological commentary and imagery,” Haebich continues, referring to the racial views of the Northern Territory’s administrator F.J.S. Wise, and the anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner, as well as citing photography by the scientist Baldwin Spencer.[16]

Then comes an abrupt jump. “These racist stereotypes and images moulded Boyd’s perceptions of Aborigines in central Australia,” Haebich remarks.[17] But she has not proved this at all. There is an error in reasoning here, equivalent to assuming all German citizens held the same racial views as the Nazi government. Policies alone prove little. One cannot treat any artist as mirroring official attitudes without firm supporting evidence. If Haebich fills in the situation of Aborigines when Boyd visited the region, and shows the authorities were prejudiced, she does not establish a link between their views and the personal values of a private citizen, Arthur Boyd. The necessary dots are not joined. And it is this fault in elementary logic that leaves the thrust of Haebich’s argument as interesting, although unproven speculation.

“Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings” is a thought-provoking piece. It raises serious questions about how Aborigines are portrayed in works of art, although the article does zigzag between level-headed claim and unverified conjecture. Haebich is on firm ground in pointing out that Boyd used current racial imagery “as tropes to create disturbing allegories on these universal themes. ‘Half-caste’, for example, was an obvious trope for the quintessential alienated outsider in 1950s iconography.”[18] There are sources to prove this. But she is on unstable ground with her assertion:

Boyd also used this imagery to explore European sexual desire and anxieties and fears of race-mixing and racial contamination, themes he had already begun to explore in his wartime drawings about sexual contact between black American servicemen and white Australian women.[19]

Which drawings? A check of Christopher Tadgell’s catalogue raissoné of Boyd’s pre-1970 drawings reveals there are no such works.[20]

Artists, critics and scholars will disagree with Haebich’s remark, “works that are cut off from their roots altogether may come to mean anything”[21]; while her assertion, “all interpretations of works of art may be relevant and acceptable” is contrary to all historical studies, not just art.[22] Pictures, like literary texts and legal documents, are not ciphers we can arbitrarily superimpose meanings upon. The renaissance scholar Michael Baxandall skilfully explored this in his 1985 book Patterns of Intention, showing there are questions of legitimacy, evidence and verification for any theorem.[23] Besides, the proof with artistic interpretations is whether they can be pointed to in pictures. It is here that Haebich comes up short, because she does not examine a single painting. Visual art is outside Haebich’s scope.

And in the instance where pieces are mentioned in passing, she asks too much: Boyd’s “sketches from the trip speak of simplifications rather than critical scrutiny of the complexities and contradictions in race relations in the centre”, she complains.[24] The thing about sketches is that they are sketchy. We don’t imagine Boyd’s quick impressions of parrots will be ornithologically perfect, let alone depict the aerodynamics of bird flight: scribbled drawings made on the run are always simplifications. As for asking rapid ink sketches to show the “complexities” and “contradictions” in race relations, this is expecting the impossible.

Such flaws could be avoided by undertaking background reading into art history. Instead of using scholarship, Haebich proceeds to put up a straw man then knock him down by caricaturing art historians as an insular clique who “enclosed” art in a “hermetic” context. Their writings reflect “the influence of conservative trends within the art world privileging ‘great art’ as elitist, ahistorical and outside the influences of the mundane world and the ‘great artist’ as genius whose oeuvre is above conventional social and historical analysis,” she fumes, then continues, “Within this schema the preoccupations of western artists, historians and critics are paramount.”[25] The prose of some academics can be pompous, but this is an over-reaction.

Professor Haebich’s contention seems that any discussion of Australian artists must refer to indigenous affairs; and, furthermore, that white artists who paint Aboriginal figures are potential racial oppressors (“this can serve to reinforce exploitative, monological and nonreciprocal relations between western artists and indigenous subjects”[26]). In other words, art historians ought to function as political policemen.

The main target of her discontent is the interpretive approach of Franz Philipp, who in 1967 published the first book on Boyd. This included a definitive chapter which distilled Philipp’s conversations with Boyd on the imagery and meaning of his Bride paintings. One might think this a commendable undertaking, although Haebich is annoyed:

Phillip [sic] argued for a “simpler and wider” reading of the series as an allegorical ballad with universal application, a “dream play” in which the “half-caste” is “Everyman”, the “outcast dreamer”, and the Bride a dream image he strives to retain.[27]

Such interpretations constitute: “the censoring of an aspect of our national history which is fraught with racial fears, desires and shame. Perhaps, they are also the fruits of a search for a ‘politically correct’ niche for these ‘national treasures’…”[28]

Censoring history and imposing political correctness are not charges made lightly against any art historian: least of all Franz Philipp (1914–70). As a Jew he had been forbidden to continue his studies at the University of Vienna in 1937, then the Nazis packed him off to Dachau. But Philipp escaped from a work party, making his way eventually to England, where he was interned as an enemy alien, before being transported to Australia aboard the Dunera. It was only after the war that he was able to recommence his scholarly career after graduating from the University of Melbourne.

Far from being their perpetrator, Franz Philipp was himself a former victim of a racist regime that operated through censorship, political correctness and official thuggery. To be sure, in choosing to write on Arthur Boyd, the academic stood up for the modern art he had earlier seen the Nazis brand degenerate and try ruthlessly to stamp out: his entire book advances values that would have set the Gestapo thumping on a writer’s door.

An ambitious attempt to link indigenous issues directly with Arthur Boyd’s Bride series appeared in the 2002 issue of Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies. “White Brides: Images of Marriage across Colonising Boundaries” was written by Ann McGrath, who was conducting research on a Fellowship in American History awarded by Yale University’s Beinecke Library.[29] At the time McGrath was co-ordinator of the Society and Nation Program at the National Museum in Canberra, and she has since become director of the Australian National University’s Centre for Indigenous History.

Professor McGrath introduces her confident piece with aggrandising verbal flourishes:

Images of “mixed-color” couples depicted in frontier settings could transfer weddings into multilayered imaginaries of gender, conquest, and boundary-crossing fertility. The painted image of a bride marrying across colonised borders of “color” and culture suggests a cathartic but fleeting historical moment where representatives of the “Old” and “New” worlds appear to unite freely for mutual benefit. Although paintings of such weddings are not common, certain artists used the theme to depict marriages that, for both liminal nations and for later audiences reflecting upon past history, could be both “settling” and “unsettling” in equal measure.[30]

Her dense and wordy article then fixes on several pictures of brides by two artists. The first is the minor American painter Alfred Jacob Miller (1810–74), who in 1837 accompanied a wealthy Scot into America’s north-west, making sketches which would later be painted. From New Orleans, the young artist and his patron travelled up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, then continued on horseback using a wilderness trail along the Platte, North Platte and Sweetwater rivers in remote Nebraska. They followed a meandering line of trading posts westward, encountering along the way communities of Sioux, Shoshone, Utah, Cheyenne and Crow natives. Eventually they reached Fort William, now known as Fort Laramie in Wyoming, from where they moved on to the “Rocky Mountains Rendezvous”—a summer gathering of trappers, mountain men, Indians and fur traders—held that year at Green River. It was a hazardous expedition, taking many months, and moving far from settled territory.

The other artist McGrath scrutinises is Arthur Boyd. Her purpose is to contrast his 1950s allegorical paintings using a Bride motif against Miller’s gouache, The Trapper’s Bride of 1837, and 1841 oil version of the same subject.

McGrath suggests this comparison has the makings for a fruitful analysis where the attitudes of white people towards inter-marriage with natives will be revealed. “Although their work and historical influences were vastly different,” she admitted, “by representing transfrontier unions the two artists depicted the often-neglected theme of the human, social, and imagined boundaries of ‘frontier’ and ‘settlement’”.[31] McGrath assures readers that she can well handle such a difficult contrast:

While comparative research often assumes a comparison between like and like, my transnational juxtaposition allows very different examples to be adjoined and thus considered together. Although these two cases of visual symbolism traverse different centuries and very different frontier contexts, their common meeting and departure points suggest some new questions.[32]

The matter of legitimate comparison cannot be so perfunctorily dismissed. Art scholars would point out, besides disjunctions in style and genre, these artists were undertaking very different activities. Miller was travelling as an illustrator, an important role before the age of the photograph. His task was to document daily life and record native peoples, producing skilled drawings and watercolours that compare directly with those of the Australian colonial artist S.T. Gill. In contrast, Boyd was freely inventing modernist paintings in his studio. His compositions were acts of imagination steeped in expressionist values. One artist aimed to record; the other invented. This is why art historians would approach the works differently, because there is a crucial dissimilarity between art-as-record and art-as-imagining.

Oblivious to this distinction, McGrath treats Boyd’s invented modernist compositions as segments of a sociological documentary. To this effect she introduces race-relations policies and customs as a context for the pictures’ production. “The Brides series’ historical context, between 1951 and 1962,” she writes, “was the heyday of the Aboriginal assimilation policy, the first truly national platform of Australian Aboriginal policy.”[33] The political temperature is swiftly fired up by adding incendiary statements about central Australia when Boyd visited:

the Northern Territory and Western Australia, which had larger areas of predominantly Aboriginal populations, endorsed eugenic [sic] policies aimed at “breeding out color” via intermarriage. With housing incentives provided for white men who legally married lighter-skinned Aboriginal girls, Northern Territory Aborigines called it the “fuck em white” policy.[34]

From here it is a short step to suggesting the Bride paintings depict tense black-white sexual relations. By structuring her sentences to alternate information on race then on art, McGrath implies a link between Boyd’s paintings and material they have no proven connection with—as in the following:

Boyd’s Brides series of the 1950s and 1960s was inspired by a journey to Australia’s slowest moving frontier and deepest interior, where only twenty years earlier police had led a large-scale retaliatory massacre in a conflict originally sparked by white men stealing Aboriginal women. Boyd’s Shearers Playing for a Bride, and Bride Running Away contain images of the bride as an item of exchange or captivity.[35]

This is tabloid-style innuendo. No relationship between the conflict and the paintings is established, indeed, we are not shown that Boyd ever heard of the mentioned event. Ann McGrath arranges information to lead readers to assume a causal link as if the paintings were responses to a conflict which is neither identified nor satisfactorily explained. After all, “large scale” and “massacre” require clarification. There is not even a reference in her endnotes.

The absence of sources is a pronounced deficiency throughout McGrath’s article. Much is revealed when endnotes are perused because, if the main scholarly works on Arthur Boyd are listed en masse in two notes, this appears cosmetic. The discussion of Boyd’s work within her text is very poorly referenced.

Evidence is in short supply. Consider the explanation of Boyd’s thoughts about a preliminary studio drawing before he embarked on the Bride paintings:

He pondered whether it signified the woman’s journey to whiteness, the whole people’s painful journey toward whiteness, or the man’s failed journey to become “white.” What type of narrative was it? Who were its main actors? Was one actor playing several parts? The paintings concern a narrative about Aboriginal people, a humanizing tale about a despised people and a gentle critique of government policy. They critique the nation itself, the agency of its land and peoples.[36]

McGrath’s article hinges on the artist’s private musings given here, but she lists no source for this material. How do we know this is what Arthur Boyd thought? It looks suspiciously like invention, not history: has key information been made up?

Some paintings used as evidence are fictitious. McGrath asserts “earlier paintings in the series contain less modern but all-too-familiar imperial tropes of captivity and ownership as characterizing black man’s treatment of women”.[37] These include “the beaten wife, the bestial black man, the old black man with the too-young bride”.[38] No paintings with these images exist. Later she mentions that “Boyd withdrew one of his earliest bride paintings, The Wedding, from public exhibition. It depicted the ‘half-caste’ man, haunted by the white wife (and lifestyle?) of his dreams, assaulting his real bride, a woman of mixed descent.”[39] There is no painting with this title, or depicting a man assaulting a woman. Nor did Boyd remove any Bride work from public display.

Contentious pronouncements about Boyd’s art abound. No picture is cited for this: “The state as patriarchal father must officiate, but, although it becomes invisible in later paintings, there is no suggestion its evil influence has been removed,” or for this: “Marriage itself is symbolic of union, in this case the union of a colonial nation, where colonizer and colonized contest the very ground on which people walk.”[40] These are offered as deductions, but it isn’t shown how they are derived from Boyd’s works. Nor is visual or documentary evidence cited when McGrath says some Bride paintings mirror “the woman’s own desire or a state-coerced project for her to become ‘white’”.[41] Most misleading is McGrath’s sweeping statement, “Boyd’s interpreters often assume these paintings, especially those where phantom brides appear, narrate stories of a black man’s longing for a ‘real’ white bride.”[42] No source is given and no scholars are named in this untrue assertion.

Professor McGrath’s approach to pictorial analysis is best described as forcing theories onto works without bothering about proof. Take her aside on Margaret Preston’s well-known print The Expulsion (1952), which shows a native Adam and Eve cast into Australian wilderness. McGrath expounds: “an Aboriginal man and wife surrounded by native flowers are ousted from Eden by the evil angel of Australian colonialism”.[43] No supporting material is given for a preposterous claim (the angel is conventional). Likewise when dealing with Boyd’s Bride paintings, McGrath’s observations need to be checked against each picture. The Bride in one piece is said to have a blackened eye.[44] This is wrong: the eye is unmarked.

Disregarding historical methodology, McGrath repeatedly imposes a political agenda upon paintings which do not show what she tries to argue. Linked with this is a use of emotive language to sway the reader. This is most striking with her description of Persecuted Lovers, which represents, she says,

a couple’s frozen terror as they lie prone in lovemaking in the cold-blooded face of a too-powerful enemy. A harsh ultramarine blue sky with a violent red sunset provides the backdrop for a fascistic man in dark suit and hat of authority—symbol of a menacing state. The groom has bright blue/purple flesh; the “white man” has a black-emerald green suit and skin as black as a burnt tree stump. In the background is a holocaust landscape where a crow guards desolate dead tree trunks … [The lovers are] saying goodbye before he is killed and she becomes captive to the state man.[45]

McGrath uses here a language of force and coercion. The sky and sunset are “harsh” and “violent”. Her description uses emotive terms including “fascistic”, “holocaust”, “terror”, “authority”, “captive”, “too powerful enemy” and “menacing state”. These rhetorical trigger words imply Boyd has crafted a genocide scene, with even a bird said to “guard” over a grim place of imminent execution and sexual slavery. No sources are given for this explanation. It’s also illogical. How is a figure “as black as a burnt tree stump” interpreted as “white”?

“White Brides” is weak because art is a subject beyond Ann McGrath’s grasp. She gets straight into difficulty in her introduction; as evident with a snap summary of the American painter’s work: “Miller followed the classical European school, attempting realism in a romantic or baroque style, drawing upon the traditions of religious art.”[46] Packing together terms that she plainly does not understand, this sentence is nebulous and self-contradictory. It is not possible for an artist to be at once classical, romantic, realist and baroque. Likewise which traditions of religious art does McGrath mean: Italian, Spanish or Northern, and pre- or post-Reformation? And as for “European school”, there is no such designation in art studies.

Where the American is depicted as exuding a cosmopolitan erudition, McGrath portrays the Australian artist as working in a messy rush: “Boyd painted fast, splashing his boards with thin washes and crude loose brushstrokes for an unstudied effect.”[47] A cursory examination of Boyd’s Bride paintings will show how wrong this is. Besides lacking paint splashes and “crude” brushwork, they are carefully crafted pictures—nearly half of them were executed in the Old Master technique of oil over tempera.

After these statements, it’s a bumbling path through art that is not comprehended. As she does with Arthur Boyd, McGrath misapplies artistic terms and concepts when discussing Alfred Jacob Miller. His adroit work observes the graphic customs of nineteenth-century illustration; although McGrath misses this, and labours to suggest influences from religious art that are not present. Even her grasp of tribal culture appears shaky: “In the traditional Aboriginal color lexicon white was associated with preparation of corpses for funeral ceremonies,” one broad statement runs.[48] However, this practice was true only of certain tribal groups. Besides, anthropologists would point out that there is no “traditional Aboriginal color lexicon”. The very phrase is misleading; as is confirmed by an endnote which supplies no proof.[49]

Little is helped by a murky prose style that confuses obscurity with profundity. And the text is marred with such simple gaffes that it beggars belief how the article was passed by referees. For the record, Boyd’s war service was spent preparing maps in a cartography unit at South Melbourne and Bendigo: he did not witness friends killed in action; he did not paint shell-shocked soldiers and trauma victims.[50] When the text is firm, it usually repeats information from secondary sources (the better parts of the discussion of Miller seem mostly cribbed from the museum catalogue Alfred Jacob Miller: Watercolors of the American West by Joan Troccoli[51]).

Far from changing our understanding of Arthur Boyd’s Bride series, the article sets a very low point in Australian historical studies. Straining to prove her theory, Ann McGrath neglects scholarship on the painter, invents supporting evidence, refers to fictitious pictures, uses innuendo and emotive rhetoric, and feigns to relay thoughts from a deceased artist’s mind.

In dealing with Arthur Boyd the two social historians jumped into modern art at the deep end. They also hindered—and prejudiced—their efforts in setting off with a point to prove. Both Haebich and McGrath appear to have decided what the works loosely meant before they began interpreting. Yet these are difficult pictures which can baffle the inexperienced: and it is more fruitful to approach paintings with an open mind, wondering what they have to say.

Take the figure aiming a rifle in Persecuted Lovers. To those unfamiliar with Boyd’s art it is hard to unpick this symbol; and, in fixing on racial issues, we can miss sight of what is being said about human nature. The figure’s dark skin and his attire seem at odds, which is why one scholar ventured to suggest this is a “citified” Aborigine.[52] But an intrusive man taunting lovers is a firm motif, appearing in earlier Boyd works to signify intolerant people who detest love, as well as social pressures to conform. This is reinforced by the dark figure’s shoe treading on the Bride’s filmy dress, Boyd later explaining he used a boot as sign for the father—implying that in this scene it connotes a parent/family trying to hold back the grown child.[53] Likewise the presumption that the phantom bride must be a white woman undermines what Boyd broadly delves into about romantic relationships and marriage. His works show the young groom struggling to separate the real person he has married from an idealised partner. The paintings tend to reflect on love and its choices.[54]

It’s also apparent that some works were affected by a creative dialogue with other artists, a second group of Bride pictures being made for a group exhibit with friends in August 1959.[55] Charles Blackman was painting pictures of girls with bunches of flowers; and Boyd visibly responded by altering his bridal bouquets. The enormous blue bouquet with large eyes looking at the bride in Drowned Bridegroom was probably intended to upstage Blackman, which it did! Other participants in the forthcoming show affected the craftsmanship. At his best, Boyd had a visceral understanding of oil paint: he could apply it with an almost involuntary fluency. But the Bride series was uneven, the figures in some works having a cumbersome coarseness. John Brack’s feedback helped the artist develop several compositions.[56]

Less easy to pin down is the possible influence of the group show’s organiser Bernard Smith. The academic was preparing to publish his landmark 1960 book European Vision and the South Pacific, which included a definite chapter on historical attitudes to indigenous peoples, “The Ignoble and the Romantic Savage”.[57] Smith saw Boyd regularly in 1958 and 1959, commenting on pictures, explaining ideas and pressing his opinions as the Bride series evolved—which led another indignant artist, Leonard French, to accuse Smith of getting on his stressed friend’s back and telling him what to paint.

This winds into how Boyd portrayed Aborigines. When the Bride pictures were originally shown in 1958, some critics were uneasy that they erred into racial caricature. The use of curly black hair, pudgy nose and bulbous eyes on the groom was queried, one scribe complaining the figure recalled a child’s golliwog.[58] Undeterred, Boyd mulled over the female character; which, Smith told me, resulted in the near identical ugly troll-girls of Drowned Bridegroom and Bride Watching Soldiers Fight. This was when he told Smith that his works “do not refer to an actual event and recall few remembered observations: they are conceived as in a dream”.[59]

Boyd met mixed reactions when a selection of Bride pictures was exhibited in London in July 1960. Given that the Notting Hill riots were still fresh in local memory, some visitors misread mounting tensions on West Indian migration into the art. Britons saw aspects of their own heated race debate mirrored in the pictures, which certainly drove the positive critical response. Boyd ceased work on the series after that London show.

An opportunity to assess the theories of Ann Haebich and Anna McGrath arose over the summer of 2014-15 with a survey of Bride paintings at Melbourne’s Heide Museum of Modern Art. Difficult and costly to organise, these exhibitions are exceptional events. Decades pass between them.[60] They are looked to by art historians and critics as occasions to review claims about Boyd’s pictures and sort out legitimate interpretations in a prudent, thorough manner. Indeed, the independent scholar Geoffrey Smith had compiled for the accompanying museum publication a catalogue raissoné of the Bride series—an essential resource for future researchers.

Kendrah Morgan, a curator at the museum, wrote the interpretive essay for the illustrated exhibition catalogue. She mixed a thumbnail biography of the artist with selected highlights on government treatment of Aborigines, comments on some Bride paintings, asides on other modern artists, and a liberal quotation of comments on Aborigines made over the years by Boyd himself. It was hoped this would be the long-needed authoritative statement on the Bride pictures which responds to a changing awareness of Aboriginal issues.

Morgan’s article is awkwardly shaped, and the prose style is weak. She often uses showy phrasing when straightforward words would be best. So where an ordinary person might say Boyd was “influenced by Dostoyevsky”, the curator has him “engaging with the writings of Dostoyevsky”.[61] Clarity can get lost in jargon. Take the remark that the paintings show Boyd’s “constant interrogation of the fear, jealousies and anxieties surrounding sexuality and difference”.[62] This sounds impressive, but what does it mean? Elsewhere my guess is that the phrase, “he relied heavily on the familiar trope of the outsider for the series’ conceptual platform”, would translate into conversational English as, “he used the outsider theme”.[63] But meaning is muddled when Morgan writes that some pictures explore “the bride as chattel to be owned, and which could be interpreted as pandering to the European fantasy of black men gambling for a white woman’s sexual favours—although this is a reversal of the more common stereotype of white men desiring black women”.[64] Who is meant to be lusting after whom?

Instead of testing their views, Morgan extols Haebich and McGrath. This is where serious defects come in, such as where Morgan repeats McGrath’s comment that one piece signifies “the painful, forced journey to ‘whiteness’, or that journey’s failure”, without checking how this was reached.[65] It can also lead to conspicuous errors. Hence Morgan copies Haebich’s mistaken claim on Boyd’s anxiety over racial-mixing evident in “drawings of sexual encounters between black American servicemen and white women in wartime Melbourne”.[66] She even proposes a 1940s painting based on those drawings—a pity they are fictitious.

Morgan advances some quirky theories of her own. Persecuted Lovers is said to show Boyd fantasising about himself embracing a family friend, Jean Langley, as her cuckolded husband, the music critic John Sinclair, prepares to shoot.[67] She also claims men wear clothes in the paintings as “a reference to how missionaries and the authorities forced Indigenous people to adopt western dress”.[68] And the unfinished boat in an early Bride painting is “perhaps suggesting the fragments of a relationship that could not stay afloat”.[69] As for the recurring floral bouquet, this evokes “the mushrooming of an atomic cloud”.[70] Morgan may have no evidence whatsoever here, yet she gilds her claim with a digression:

Although it is tempting to speculate that Boyd was aware of the British nuclear tests at Maralinga from 1956 to 1963, with disastrous results for Indigenous communities in the region, this is unlikely. He had, however, made reference in his earlier biblical allegories to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II and the emblem of the atomic cloud in the Bride works could be read as an evocation of annihilation.[71]

This is grossly misleading. There are no atomic clouds anywhere in Boyd’s art. And far from suggesting death, a spray of flowers and leaves is his recurring symbol for life, hope and regenerative love. It first appears in Boyd’s 1940s works growing from the heads of hunchbacks, cripples and lovers; then changes into the branch of a dead tree which bursts into life directly above an embracing couple.[72] In the mid-1950s the motif becomes a bouquet for the Bride works, then floral sprays in the Nebuchadnezzar paintings, and in the Artist in Extremis series of the 1970s and 1980s the artist’s hair will sprout flowers and leaves.

If interpretations are up for invention, why stick with Arthur Boyd? Sure enough, Patrick White and Russell Drysdale are drawn into a swelling argument. White earns praise for raising “awareness of inequality” by “incorporating Aboriginal characters into his novel Voss”, while Riders of the Chariot “critiqued the problems of detribalisation” via the character Alf Dubbo.[73] Meanwhile, Drysdale’s 1953 canvas Station Blacks, Cape York is said to embody “sanitised paintings of Indigenous people”.[74] Pressing this point, by an undisclosed economic equation Morgan detects racial undertones to his exhibition sales:

Drysdale does not make a moral point with his images of Aboriginal people, portraying them as part of the Australian identity rather than symbols of white guilt. Perhaps they were unthreatening in this way, they sold well at Drysdale’s Macquarie Galleries show in 1953, unlike Boyd’s Brides, which were not an immediate critical or financial success.[75]

Let’s handle the subject matter first. Drysdale assiduously painted Aboriginal figures for over twenty years—it was a key subject. The material for these pictures came from repeat trips he made to remote communities, where he took photographs and drew. Station Blacks, Cape York is a composite painting diluted from quick snapshots of a country race meeting. Drysdale grouped figures from different photos and left out the racetrack entirely; although Morgan decides his removal of the setting “acknowledged their displacement”.[76] This is preposterous.

Drysdale’s finished Aboriginal works included formal portraits, single and grouped figures before blank settings, single and grouped figures within landscapes, single figures surrounded by funerary sculpture, as well as figures decorated with traditional ceremonial designs.[77] Morgan’s judgment of these images as “sanitised” is uninformed and wrong. Some portraits are sensitive studies of character; other compositions aspire to suggest an individual’s connection with powers beyond this material world; while an entire strand of his production, which was in the mentioned 1953 exhibition, tackles what we might now call identity. This included the largest work Drysdale painted, Mullaloonah Tank (now in the Art Gallery of South Australia), which shows four silent Aborigines in their country. Drysdale’s calculated handling of geometry and palette—he used the same colour range to set figures and rocks—strives to convey a poetic stillness where people may be seen to exist in rhythm with the earth. No wonder that picture sits in the front rank of Australian art. Boyd himself admired it for resisting prevailing attitudes, and portraying Aborigines with “great dignity”.[78]

Then there is Morgan’s claim that the Bride show was financially unsuccessful. According to gallery records seven of Boyd’s sixteen large main paintings and another five small works were sold from the exhibit, one piece going to the National Gallery of Victoria.[79] Several remaining pictures went into the stockroom to show to prospective customers afterwards, which is how another two pieces—The Dreaming Bridegroom and The Wedding Group—were later purchased by an American couple. Far from being dismal, that Boyd exhibition had the best turnover Australian Galleries recorded for any show in 1958. The gallery’s director Anne Purves told me she even had to sort out a dispute when rival collectors, Kym Bonython and Tristan Buesst, each insisted they had first claim on a key picture.

Artistic interpretation does not stand still. It changes. It is enhanced as we discover how to perceive more clearly what is latent within a painting. Sometimes it will be obscured by theoretical fashion, with badly chosen ideas imposed on works regardless of truth.

We have to ask whether the latter fate is being posthumously inflicted upon Arthur Boyd, whose paintings are reconfigured by Haebich, McGrath and Morgan to serve new agendas. Nor does it stop with Boyd, as cited comments on Patrick White, Margaret Preston and Russell Drysdale indicate. Literary and artistic history is being altered along politically correct lines.

Above all this is a question of virtue. The three historians effectively sit in judgment on deceased artists, using a now current social outlook to debate their moral character. Actually, Boyd’s virtue is the focus for a brief piece by Professor Marcia Langton, chair of Indigenous Studies at Melbourne University, which follows Morgan’s essay in the museum’s catalogue. Langton remarks that Boyd “was in a sense the inheritor of land, wealth and privilege won from a genocide”, with her essay assuring us he may be forgiven for this sanguine stain.[80] Chief among her reasons is that Boyd, who she never met, was supposedly troubled by his success. Using religious terms, Langton claims to have had an

insight into his soul and his struggle with the fact of his wealth, the land he held, and the poisoned chalice it represented. His gift of his many paintings—and Bundanon—to the nation is an act of atonement, a way of resolving his struggle with the spirits of the dead.[81]

Academic discourse has given way to priestly pronouncements: the sinner is redeemed!

But to return to art history, most alarming is how Anna Haebich, Ann McGrath and Kendrah Morgan have redacted Boyd’s early position on political art. This was when modernist painting in 1940s Australia was forged, that vital fight for imaginative freedom conducted within the mercurial Contemporary Art Society (CAS). To the one side were the Social Realist artists who, brandishing the Communist Party’s policies, pressed the cause of political painting and social content. Opposing them were the celebrated Angry Penguins, modernists who championed creative liberty and rejected political formulas: “Artists of the world unite,” Albert Tucker would jeer, “you have nothing to lose but your brains.”

A leading Angry Penguin, Boyd was a modernist who stood firmly against art-by-political-numbers. This is brushed out of art history by Kendrah Morgan’s essay. She refers glowingly to communist art of that turbulent period, holding up social protest paintings of the party member Yosl Bergner as an exemplar of what art ought to be.[82] His works portraying miserable, oppressed people (some of them Aboriginal) were, we are told, “a model for creating a socially conscious art that sought to raise awareness of the predicaments faced by disadvantaged communities”.[83] The word communism figures nowhere in Morgan’s essay—she refers instead to a “commitment to humanitarian values”—nor does her thumbnail history of Boyd acknowledge the fierce struggle within the CAS to resist political agendas.[84] This unswerving modernist outlook—the stylistic and thematic background for the Bride series—is denied so that current political opinions can be forced upon paintings.

Australia’s modernists are surely turning in their graves.

Dr Christopher Heathcote’s most recent book is Russell Drysdale: Defining the Modern Australian Landscape (Wakefield Press).



[1] Anna Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings: Boyd’s Bride series Revisited”, Journal of Australian Studies 23:61 (1999): pp.118.

[2] See Christopher Tadgell, Arthur Boyd: Drawings 1934-1970, Secker & Warburg, London, 1973, figs. 727-932.

[3] Franz Philipp, Arthur Boyd, Thames & Hudson, London, 1967, pp.84-6.

[4] Philipp, Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.86.

[5] See Tadgell, Arthur Boyd: Drawings, op. cit., figs 962-1003.

[6] Grazia Gunn has shown the sufferings of the persecuted and misunderstood outcast is a key recurring theme in Boyd’s art, with lovers frequently acting as victims. Grazia Gunn, Arthur Boyd: Seven Persistent Images, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1985, pp.17, 35 & 59.

[7] Ursula Hoff, The Art of Arthur Boyd, Andre Deutsch, London, 1986, pp.49-50; Barry Pearce, Arthur Boyd, Beagle Press, Sydney, 1994, p.20.

[8] Philipp, Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.88.

[9] Philipp, Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.86.

[10] Janet McKenzie stresses that with the Bride paintings “the point the artist sought to emphasize is the degree of alienation…” see Janet McKenzie, Arthur Boyd: Art and Life, Thames and Hudson, London, 2000, p.95; also Pearce, Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.21

[11] Gunn, Arthur Boyd: Seven Persistent Images, op. cit., p.35.

[12] Philipp, Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.90. Ursula Hoff suggests there are also allusions to the myth of Narcissus in some works. Hoff, Art of Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.50.

[13] Boyd’s biographer states: “The paintings were not, as many consider, a political statement.” Darlene Bungey, Arthur Boyd: A Life, Allen and Unwin, Crow’s Nest, 2007, p.292. Also Pearce, Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.21; and Gunn, Arthur Boyd: Seven Persistent Images, op. cit., pp.13-14.

[14] Grazia Gunn has insisted that with Boyd “the characters in his compositions are set in scenarios of his imagination.” Gunn, Arthur Boyd: Seven Persistent Images, op. cit., pp.14 & 17.

[15] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.120.

[16] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.120.

[17] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.121, cf. p.119

[18] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.123

[19] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.123.

[20] Aside from his drawings for the Bride series, the only drawing of a mixed race couple was made by Boyd in London during 1961 and shows a black male and white female embracing on a park bench. It is likely Haebich has confused the authorship of Albert Tucker’s well-known wartime drawings and paintings of young local girls with soldiers.

[21] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.125.

[22] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.125.

[23] Michael Baxandall, Patterns of Intention: On the Historical Explanation of Art, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1985.

[24] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.119.

[25] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.118.

[26] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.118.

[27] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.124.

[28] Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.117.

[29] McGrath, Ann. “White Brides: Images of Marriage across Colonizing Boundaries.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 23.3 (2002): 76+.

[30] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.1.

[31] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.1.

[32] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.1.

[33] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.5.

[34] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.5.

[35] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.5.

[36] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.6.

[37] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.7.

[38] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.7.

[39] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.12, note 59.

[40] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., pp.7 & 8.

[41] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.6.

[42] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.6.

[43] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.7.

[44] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.12, note 59.

[45] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.6.

[46] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.1.

[47] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.1.

[48] McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., p.5.

[49] Instead of citing authorities who discuss the uses and understanding of color within traditional indigenous culture, McGrath’s entire endnote for her point here runs: “Numerous other similar examples can be found in Reynolds, The Other Side of the Frontier.” But this cited book does not explicate the “color lexicon.” See McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., n.46.

[50] see McGrath, “White Brides”, op.cit., pp.6 & 7.

[51] Joan Troccoli, Alfred Jacob Miller: Watercolors of the American West, Thomas Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa Oklahoma, 1990.

[52] Hoff, Art of Arthur Boyd, op.cit., p.50.

[53] Gunn, Arthur Boyd: Seven Persistent Images, op. cit., p.14.

[54] In a later newspaper review, Gary Catalano pointed out that Boyd’s Bride paintings reflected upon how marriages bring together “mis- or imperfectly matched lovers”. Age, 26 Nov. 1986.

[55] The present author published the definitive account of this group exhibition in: Christopher Heathcote, A Quiet Revolution: The Rise of Australian Art 1946-1968, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 1995, ch.7.

[56] Philipp, Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.92.

[57] see Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, 1960, ch.11.

[58] Robert Hughes, The Art of Australia, rev. ed.,Penguin, Ringwood, 1970, pp.232-4; Philipp, Arthur Boyd, op. cit., p.84.

[59] Bernard Smith with Terry Smith & Christopher Heathcote, Australian Painting 1788-2000, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, 2001, p.324.

[60] Reassembled for exhibitions three times since 1980, the Bride series has been shown at Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne, 1986; Gould Galleries, South Yarra, 2002; then Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 29 Nov. 2014-9 Mar. 2015.

[61] Kendrah Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen, 2014, p.10.

[62] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.18.

[63] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.13.

[64] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.18.

[65] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.16.

[66] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.18; Haebich, “Irresistible Journeys and Imaginings,” op. cit., p.123.

[67] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.21.

[68] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.17.

[69] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.17.

[70] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.20.

[71] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.20.

[72] For a discussion of flower and tree symbols in Boyd, see Gunn, Arthur Boyd: Seven Persistent Images, op. cit., p.35.

[73] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.15.

[74] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.14. In Hoff’s The Art of Arthur Boyd both Ursula Hoff and T.G. Rosenthal remark on the contrast between Boyd’s and Drysdale’s 1950s paintings of Aboriginals, but they do not jump to the moral and financial conclusions made by Morgan.

[75] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.14.

[76] ibid., p.14. The present author has demonstrated how the companion painting, Saddling up at the Coen Races (1953), was composed by Drysdale using twelve snapshot photographs taken at a country race meeting. These photographs were placed in a glass case adjacent to the oil painting for viewers to check against the finished work within the Drysdale retrospective held at Tarrawarra Museum of Art, over the summer of 2013-14. Three of these photographs of Aboriginals were among those used when Drysdale composed Station Blacks, Cape York. –Christopher Heathcote, Russell Drysdale: Defining the Modern Australian Landscape, Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2013.

[77] Heathcote, Russell Drysdale, op. cit., pp.24-7.

[78] Boyd later remarked “Drysdale had done some very good paintings depicting their condition. He gave them great dignity..” adding of Mullaloonah Tank, “Drysdale’s Aborigines standing under the tent were poor, but dignified…” Gunn, Arthur Boyd: Seven Persistent Images, op. cit., p.56.

[79] Australian Galleries records, PA 03/56, La Trobe Library manuscripts collection, State Library of Victoria.

[80] Marcia Langton, “Arthur Boyd: Possession, Land, Spirit,” in Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.32.

[81] Langton, “Possession, Land, Spirit,” op.cit., p.32.

[82] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., pp. 10 & 14.

[83] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.10.

[84] Morgan, Arthur Boyd, Brides, op.cit., p.14.