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Arthur Boyd – The Poet with the Paintbrush

The 1957 Arthur Boyd painting Shearers Playing for a Bride is the most powerful and emotionally moving work I’ve ever seen – it’s haunted me for over 40 years. It is one of the 30 paintings of his Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-caste series, commonly known as the ‘Bride series’. It’s a deeply personal response to the dispossessed, detribalised Aboriginal peoples – victims of the ill-fated assimilation program of 1930 – that he encountered in 1951 on a 4WD trip from Alice Springs through the Simpson Desert. Denied their culture, they lived in a wretched state, in some kind of never-ending nowhere land with seemingly no meaningful future prospects. Arthur was shocked and totally devastated by the treatment of what were known then as ‘half-castes’, living an evermore shunned, confused existence. These paintings were revolutionary, outspoken, so needed for the times – and even more relevant today: great art can do its work for decades. ...

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