An image of Nude carrying a ram

Arthur Boyd

(Australia, England 24 Jul 1920 – 24 Apr 1999)

Nude carrying a ram

Other titles:
Figure and Ram
Not on display
Further information

Arthur Boyd arrived in London in 1960 intending to stay for a few months. So propitious was his arrival however, with Australian art enjoying international esteem, six months turned into twelve years.

But it was not just the reception of his work that encouraged Boyd to stay, including a successful retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1962. It was London's depth of art collections that deepened his growing passion for mythology as a vehicle to explore the human condition.

At the National Gallery Boyd saw one masterpiece in particular that galvanised him towards a new series: Titian's late 'Death of Acteon' on loan from the Earl of Harewood; depicting Acteon being turned by the chaste goddess Diana into a stag after the hapless hunter had seen her bathing naked in a stream; following which, he became mortally attacked by his own hounds.

The painting recently acquired, shown originally at Boyd's Whitechapel retrospective, is a supreme masterpiece of the series. Against a background suffused with bituminous sexuality, a white nude with red hair glows like an hallucination. Armless and blind – formally a response to Picasso – Diana is attacked in turn by a beast of her construction, her torso wheeling on a diagonal axis towards oblivion.

This is an Australian icon of ongoing resonance, especially with Boyd's rich graphic output during the 1960s; connecting to an old master tradition but at the same time embracing the psyche of one of Australia's greatest modern artists.

oil on canvas
160.0 x 167.2 cm
Signature & date

Signed l.r., black oil "Arthur Boyd". Not dated.

Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 2009
Accession number
© Reproduced with permission of Bundanon Trust