The BoydsAuthor: Brenda Niall
Imprint: Melbourne University Publishing
Featured in the April, 2002 magazine
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The Boyd family is Australia's most remarkable artistic dynasty. Among the descendants of landscape painter Emma Minnie à Beckett and her husband Arthur Merric Boyd are talented painters, potters, sculptors, architects and writers, several of international standing.
Potter Merric Boyd, painter Penleigh Boyd and novelist Martin Boyd were followed by Penleigh's son Robin, architect and writer, and by Merric's sons and daughters: painter Arthur, sculptor Guy, painter and potter David, ceramic artist Lucy Boyd Beck and painter Mary, whose first husband was painter John Perceval and who later married Sidney Nolan. The next generation of Boyds, Becks and Percevals continues the tradition in Europe as well as Australia, and a younger one is emerging to careers in music as well as the visual arts.
This biography by award-winning writer Brenda Niall traces the emergence of an extraordinary artistic tradition. She places the Boyds in their historical and personal contexts, tells the interwoven stories of their brilliant careers, and analyses the shaping influences on their lives.
Most remarkable is the story, told here for the first time, of heiress Emma Mills - a convict's daughter who in 1855 married William à Beckett, son of Victoria's first Chief Justice. As the family's much loved matriarch, Emma à Beckett promoted the artistic careers of her daughter Emma Minnie, son-in-law Arthur Merric Boyd and Boyd grandchildren.
Niall's narrative focuses on a sequence of Boyd family houses in Australia and Europe. Her story moves from a Wiltshire manor house to a farm in Yarra Glen and a pottery in Murrumbeena, to Arthur Boyd's Suffolk retreat and David Boyd's olive grove in the South of France, and finally to Bundanon, near Nowra - the homestead that Arthur Boyd gave to the Australian people. This strategy enables her to shift the spotlight from one individual to another, and to show dramatic changes in the family fortunes in many different settings.
The Boyds is based on family papers, letters and diaries and a wide range of interviews. Moving from 1840s Melbourne to the present day, it covers a vast territory while reading with the ease of a novel.
Brenda Niall has given us an illuminating and engaging account.
Review by: Mary Lou Jelbart
AwardsAward: Victorian Premier's Literary Award Year: 2002 Prize: Winner Non Fiction
Award: Queensland Premier's Literary Award Year: 2002 Prize: Winner Non Fiction
Category:Non Fiction Biography