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Emma Minnie BOYD

Harkaway, Victoria, Australia 1858 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1936

  • England, Europe 1890-92

not titled [Bushland with dead saplings]. c.1876
Collection Title: Sketchbook mainly of portraits, domestic scenes, streetscapes and landscapes
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, sketchbooks, ink; paper drawing in pen and ink Support: thick white wove Whatman paper
Manufacturer's Mark: watermark, ‘WHATMAN / 1873 [partially on some sheets]'.

Primary Insc: no inscriptions.
Secondary Insc: no inscriptions.
Tertiary Insc: no inscriptions.
Dimensions: sheet 18.5 h x 12.8 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1970
Accession No: NGA 70.65.47
  • Purchased by the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board (C.A.A.B.], from Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, July 1970.

Filling sketchbooks with images of family and the local environs was considered a fitting pastime for cultivated young ladies of the colony. A bush gully is one such image in this artist’s sketchbook of precise and skilfully executed portraits, domestic interiors, streetscapes and landscapes. This small pen-and-ink sketch describes a non-specific place, yet is a quintessential image of the Australian bush. It is full of spring sunlight and airiness and the composition is carefully structured to give a sense of deep space. The gums and native trees of an enclosed and gentle landscape give a sense of nature undisturbed, yet the felled log and figures nestled into the slope indicate that European settlement has taken place, putting it within the convention of colonial drawings.

Emma Minnie Boyd (Minnie) was brought up in a privileged family and exhibited her paintings as an amateur – like many women of her class she did not seek to sell her work. She attended the National Gallery Art School, Melbourne, studied privately with Louis Buvelot and exhibited alongside her male counterparts Charles Conder, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton.

Between 1890 and 1893, Minnie and her husband Arthur Merric Boyd travelled throughout Europe and exhibited at the Royal Academy. Following a downturn in the fortune of her parents, and consequently their allowance, they returned to Melbourne where Minnie gave painting lessons to supplement the family income.

While remembered as the matriarch of generations of talented artists, including her sons Merric and Martin and grandson Arthur, Minnie Boyd created accomplished portraits, domestic scenes and landscapes of great sensitivity and delicacy.

Susan Herbert, 2002.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra