Harkaway, Victoria, Australia 1858 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1936
not titled [The quail shooter].
25 February 1884
Berwick, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour Support: paper
Emma Minnie Boyd was born into the privileged à Beckett family in 1858 and became known to family and friends as Minnie. While it was rare for women in late-nineteenth-century colonial Victoria to receive an art education, Minnie’s family nurtured her artistic talent and she studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne. She would eventually become one of Australia’s most significant women artists of the late nineteenth century.
In the 1860s the à Beckett family moved to Harkaway near Berwick, east of Melbourne, where they established their property The Grange. The surrounding landscape was to provide much joy and inspiration for Minnie and it was where she painted The quail shooter.
In the late afternoon light a diminutive figure stands mid-ground in a flat, scrubby landscape. In the background, against the low blue hills and soft sky, tall gums rise like sentinels on the skyline, their presence overshadowing that of the quail shooter. Painted outdoors, this lyrical study has a sense of emotional engagement with a familiar landscape. In this period of strong nationalistic sentiment, the tiny human figure does not dominate the landscape; rather he is represented as a part of it.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008