We use cookies to remember choices you make on functionality and personal features to enhance your experience to our site. By continuing to use our site you consent to the use of cookies. Please refer to our privacy and cookie policies for more information

Skip to main content

Important Australian Art / Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) Red Nebuchadnezzar with Crows, c.1968-71

Lot 17
Arthur Boyd
Red Nebuchadnezzar with Crows, c.1968-71
23 August 2022, 19:00 AEST

AU$50,000 - AU$80,000

Arthur Boyd (1920-1999)

Red Nebuchadnezzar with Crows, c.1968-71
signed lower right: 'Arthur Boyd'
oil on canvas
97.5 x 102.0cm (38 3/8 x 40 3/16in).


Savill Galleries, Sydney
Perth Galleries, Perth
Private collection, Perth, acquired from the above in 1994

T.S.R. Boase, Nebuchadnezzar: 34 Paintings and 18 Drawings by Arthur Boyd, Thames and Hudson, London, 1972, pp. 28-29 (illus.), cat. 6

'Still flaming, the king
red with fire scrambles
amongst the forest
scrub while black crows
swoop on him. The
fowls of the heaven
had, in his vision, dwelt
in the boughs of the
tree. Now they have
been driven from it and
turn upon him.' 1

Painted in London over a period of three years, the Nebuchadnezzar paintings were in part a result of Arthur Boyd's collaborative work with scholar T.S.R. Boarse. Boarse, a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, had been introduced to the painter via Bernard Smith, and his work with Boyd was to be a wellspring of friendship and academic enrichment.

Of the series, Janet McKenzie observed, 'Boyd's supreme response indicates how deeply affected he was by the character of Nebuchadnezzar and the allegorical potential offered by his life. The painter's creativity was stimulated in an extraordinary manner by Boarse's scholarly presentation of the historical figure. In a comparatively short space of time, he had produced dozens of large, dramatic canvases. They exceed the normal remit of illustration, infused as they are with aspects of his previous paintings and elements of autobiography against a background of primordial Australian landscape.' 2

So deeply did the series resonate that many are now in the permanent collections of Australian public museums and galleries. It was indeed a work from the Nebuchadnezzar series that Bernard Smith ultimately chose to illustrate the front cover of his survey publication, Australian Painting: 1788-2000. Of the paintings, Smith notes, 'Among the Antipodean painters only Arthur Boyd and John Brack developed beyond their work of the 1950s. Boyd in his St Francis and Nebuchadnezzar cycles attained a mastery of means and an eloquence of expression beyond anything he had previously attained.' 3

Merryn Schriever

1. T.S.R. Boase, Nebuchadnezzar: 34 Paintings and 18 Drawings by Arthur Boyd, Thames and Hudson, London, 1972, p. 28
2. Janet McKenzie, Arthur Boyd: Art & Life, Thames & Hudson, London, 2000, p. 140
3. Bernard Smith, Australian Painting: 1788-2000, Oxford University Press, Victoria, 2001 (fourth edition), p. 406

Additional information