Merric Boyd drawing on foggy evening, Murrumbeena
A
rthur Boyd Oil on canvas 1090 x 2290 mm 1967-68

William Merric Boyd was born on June 24th, 1888, in St Kilda, a bayside suburb of Melbourne, in his paternal grandfather's house, Glenfern. He was the second born of five children to painters Arthur Merric Boyd and Emma Minnie Boyd. His older brother, Gilbert (1886), was a killed in a horse riding accident at the age of nine years. He had two younger brothers, Penleigh (1890) and Martin (1893) ,and a sister, Helen (1903). Merric attended Haileybury College, and in 1905, worked for a year as a jackaroo in the Riverina area of New South Wales on a family property.


Merric Boyd at Dookie Agriculture College, aged 19 in 1906


In 1906 he studied at Dookie Agricultural College. In 1907, his parents purchased a dairy farm at Yarra Glen, east of Melbourne, with the idea that he might become a farmer. Merric did not pursue this as a career, and in 1909, he enrolled at St. Johns Theological College to become a Minister in the Church of England. Discontinuing this in the same year, in 1910 he studied for one term at the National Gallery School.

 


Gum Tree, Merric Boyd Water Colour 140 x 220 mm 1909

Pastoral Landscape : 240 x 180 mm 1909
Pastoral Landscape, Merric Boyd Water colour 240 x 180 mm 1909

Merric had become interested in sculpture through his family's friendship with sculptor, Web Gilbert. His first association with a commercial pottery was at Archibald McNair's Burnley Pottery in Melbourne, where he purchased his clay. Whilst there, he had the opportunity to use a wheel, and the help of workers, quickly learnt the basic skills of throwing. He refined his skills while working at the Australian Porcelain Insulator works in Yarraville between 1912 and 1914. His earliest pottery can be dated to this period.

 


Ceramic Koala Jar, Merric Boyd 220 [h] mm*


Sculptured head of Doris Boyd, by Merric Boyd
c. 1914 - 1915 plaster 370 [ah] mm*


In 1913 Merric's parents bought for him a property at number 8 Wahroongaa Crescent in Murrumbeena, and with their assistance, built a small weatherboard residence studio. He named his new home Open Country. Murrumbeena is twelve kilometres south-east of Melbourne and in 1913 was beyond the fringe of metropolitan Melbourne. It was an area of large estates, paddocks, orchards and poppy farms with scattered areas of bush and scrub, centred around Murrumbeena Railway Station and the commercial area that had established there.


Merric Boyd in his pottery at Open Country in 1914

Merric began making pottery at a time when obtaining the necessary equipment and materials was exceedingly difficult to do. As a result, he largely made his own. He built pug mills, grinders, throwing wheels and kilns, and made glazes from basic oxides. To obtain clay, he utilized the clay deposits in the Murrumbeena and Oakleigh areas, and prepared it himself.



Open Country at Murrumbeena c. 1916



The Pottery, Murrumbeena, Arthur Merric Boyd c. 1920
In 1915 Merric married artist Doris Gough at St. Stephens Church in Elsternwick. They worked both together and separately in their artistic pursuits. Doris wrote poetry and painted with watercolours and oil paints, and decorated a substantial amount of Merric's pottery. Merric continued to develop his skills in ceramics. In particular he was very successful in finding ways to combine sculptural forms with his thrown pots.


Merric Boyd with Lucy and Arthur at Open Country c.1922

Merric Boyd with Lucy and Arthur at Open Country c.1922

Merric and Doris' first child, Lucy, was born in 1916. In 1917, Merric enlisted in the Australian Flying Corps to serve in World War One and was sent to England. Around this time, his parents and Doris's mother, Evelyn (Granny) Gough moved to Wahroongaa Crescent to support Doris and baby Lucy. Arthur Merric Boyd and Emma Minnie Boyd built their house, which they called Tralee, at number 4 Wahroongaa Crescent, while Evelyn Gough built her house, called Green Pastures, at number 12 Wahroongaa Crescent. As a result, and for about six years, between 1916 and 1922, the extended Boyd clan occupied the entire northern flank of the Crescent. Evelyn Gough moved to Open Country in 1927 and spent her final years there with Merric and Doris. She died in 1931. Arthur Merric Boyd and Emma Minnie Boyd left the Crescent in 1924, moving to the bayside suburb of Sandringham.

After the War, Merric remained in England and studied pottery at the Wedgwood Pottery. In 1919 he returned to Open Country, where he applied many of the techniques he had acquired in England. His pottery became highly popular. He held exhibitions and pottery demonstrations at Open Country and in Melbourne, and sold his pots through city stores such as Mair and Lyne, and Georges. He was described in one newspaper article as 'The King of Melbourne Potters'.



Doris Boyd at Open Country c. 1920

Merric and Doris' second child, Arthur, was born at Open Country in 1920, followed by Guy in 1923, David in 1924 and Mary in 1926. In the 1920's, Merric and Doris joined the Christian Science Church. Religion and the faith it offered, supported them through some of the difficult times which were to follow. The greatest of these occurred in 1926, when papers near Merric's gas-fired kiln caught fire, causing the kiln to explode. It and the fire that followed completely destroyed his pottery. A public appeal was held to raise funds to build a new pottery. While this was operational by 1927, it was not as big as the one he lost.

The fire had a major impact one Merric's health and it is generally understood that his first major epileptic seizure took place shortly after this event. He and Doris continued to sell their pottery in the city. They would catch a train into Melbourne and carry their heavy suitcases packed with pots to the different stores. In 1927, and out of financial necessity, Merric briefly taught pottery at a secondary school in Armadale, New South Wales.



Merric Boyd in 1930


Along with the fire and the demands of a growing family, the Great Depression made life very challenging for the Boyds, as it did for countless other Australian
families. To gain additional income, in 1934, both Doris and Merric worked for a few months throwing and decorating pots at a porcelain factory in Yarraville.


Doris Boyd with her children in 1929.
From left; Guy, Arthur, Lucy, Mary and David

Merric and Doris encouraged their children to express themselves through art. They all learnt to work with clay from
an early age. David Boyd said that, as a child, he thought all families created art together as his family had done, and later on in life was surprised to discover that this was not the case.


The hands of Merric Boyd at his wheel at
Open Country Murrumbeena in the early 1920's

Merric Boyd was fascinated and inspired by the natural world. For him, pottery, was the perfect vehicle to express his affection for Australian fauna and flora and its landscapes, and the beauty he saw in the world. This, together with his deep spiritual beliefs and his certainty in the power of love, led him to create truly unique Australian works of ceramic art. While he was not the first potter to use native fauna and flora in pottery, he raised its use to new levels of artistry and acceptance.


Pot with koala Merric Boyd 1932

 


Jug with tree-trunk handle Merric Boyd 1926

Jug with apples, Merric Boyd 1931

Bowl with handles, Merric Boyd 1938


Many of Merric's works feature trees and branches, gum leaves, gum nuts and native animals such as koalas and kookaburras sculpted into thrown works, which include jugs, vases, bowls and pots. He often used the form of tree trunks and branches for the handles of his pottery. Bent and twisted windswept branches and leaves were wrapped around pots. Pots were decorated with landscapes,
post and rail fences, birds, seascapes and fruits. Some of Merric's pottery is simple in form and design, with subtle and understated decoration and glazing, while some is more complex and reveals his skill as a sculptor.

Doris Boyd often decorated Merric's pottery. She would paint or incise landscape scenes onto his pots, such as tall and straight gum trees delicately applied with a fine brush, and seascapes with craggy cliffs falling to the sea below. Doris's more refined style and delicate brushwork contrasts with Merric's bold and more vigorous approach with the brush. Some of Merric's pottery is dark and raw and restless. Other works are light and fine and uplifting. Great art usually says a lot about its creator. The expressive and complex nature of Merric Boyd is clearly reflected through his art.


Vase decoration by Doris Boyd *
Collection: Bundanon Trust, Nowra

Vase decoration by Doris Boyd
1926 170 [h] mm *


While Merric's pottery is well known, his drawings are not. His drawings are powerful and original, and display, as his pottery does, a sensitivity to and love for the natural and manmade environment around him. His use of the tree is particularly strong. In these drawings, trees rarely stand tall. More often than not, they lean to one side yet remain rooted, indicating their strength and endurance against many storms and heavy weather. Merric's drawings reveal much about his own ability to endure adversity, and survive.

 


A White Gum, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil 275x 250 mm 1951


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and water colour 180 x 275 mm 1950

 


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Pencil 185 x 275 mm 1949

Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and pencil 250 x 270 mm 1951

Merric drew designs for pots that perhaps he thought he might make one day.



Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil 245 x 275 mm undated

 


Four jugs and bowl with leaf and fruit decoration, Merric Boyd
Pencil and coloured pencil 245 x 275 mm Undated

Untitled, Merric Boyd,
Coloured pencil 245 x 275 mm undated

Three bowls with leaf and fruit decoration, Merric Boyd
Pencil and coloured pencil 245 x 275 mm 1950

Merric often drew animals including household pets, farm animals and native species. Some of these drawings portrayed animals in comfortable domestic settings, while others recall his experiences in the country.

 


Poultry Run, Merric Boyd
Pencil 278 x 185 mm 1949

Untitled, Merric Boyd
Pencil, coloured pencil and crayon, 250 x 270mm undated

Horse, Merric Boyd, Pencil 280 x 180.5 mm 1947

Parrot, Merric Boyd, Pencil 270.5 x 170.5 mm 1950

Merric did semi-abstract drawings, usually using the forms of tree trunks as their basis. These are beautiful and highly original.

 


Clump of straight and bent trees, Merric Boyd
Water colour 250 x 270 mm Undated

 


Clump of tall, straight trees, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil 250 x 270 mm 1942

Clump of trees and tall grass, Merric Boyd,
Water colour, Colour Pencil and Wax 250 x 270 mm Undated


Trees with yellow and white branches, Merric Boyd,
Water colour 250 x 270 mm Undated

Some of Merric's drawings, and in particular his portrayal of the sky, have surreal qualities.



Untitled, Merric Boyd
Pencil and crayon 250x 270 mm 1949


Telegraph posts with birds, Merric Boyd
Pencil 180 x 270 mm Undated


Merric enjoyed the sea and often drew it. He did many drawings around Port Phillip Bay, including of city beaches, on the
Mornington Peninsula and on Westernport Bay, where the family sometimes holidayed.


A Yacht Down the Bay, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil pencil and wash 250 x 270 mm 1951

Pier Middle Brighton, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil & crayon with water 270 x 250 mm 1949


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil 270 x 250 mm undated

A Sea Beach, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil 250 x 270 mm 1951

Merric drew people, including family, friends and Murrumbeena residents.


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil & pencil 270 x 250 mm 1950


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil 270 x 250 mm 1951


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil 180 x 240 mm 1955


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil & crayon with wash 250 x 270 mm 1951
Arthur, Guy and David all served in the Second World War and later returned to live at Open Country at one time or another, either in the house, the old pottery, or in other dwellings constructed on the block. There they raised their own children, worked to develop their skills and talents in the arts, and supported each other as they made their way after the turbulence of the War. Lucy and Mary lived at Open Country during and after the War with Merric and Doris.


Merric Boyd with, from the left, John Perceval, David Boyd, Mary Boyd
and Doris Boyd c.1942


The Boyd family and friends at Open Country c.1951

Back row (L-R): Hatton Beck, Merric Boyd and David Boyd. Centre row: Yvonne Boyd with Laurence Beck, unidentified, John Perceval, Mary Boyd, Lucy Boyd with Robert Beck and Guy Boyd. Front: Joy Hester, Arthur Boyd and Doris Boyd.


The 1940's saw a decline in Merric's health. While he continued to be immensely creative, his loss of physical strength made throwing on the wheel more difficult. He still produced thrown pottery, but began making a greater number of hand-sculpted works. His subjects included trees, animals, friends and family members and again reveal his remarkable talent as a sculptor. His works were generally small and expressive in form and convey his warm, humanist and sympathetic view of the world, of people and of nature.


Merric Boyd with Dish and Spoon,
Arthur Boyd Ink 560 x380 mm c. 1947


Merric Boyd, standing with Hands in Pockets,
Arthur Boyd Pencil, 180 x 270 mm c. 1947


In the 1950's Merric drew prolificly and did thousands of drawings.
Many older residents of Murrumbeena
who lived in the vicinity of Open Country remember Merric walking the streets of Murrumbeena, and the Outer Circle Parklands (Boyd Park), carrying his sketchpad and pencils. After locating a scene and subject, he would set himself up on a fence or on the nature strip and draw, sometimes for hours. On other occasions he would find a shrub or a flower in a resident's yard. He would knock on their door, and displaying the impeccable manners and gentlemanly ways he had all his life, ask to draw the subject of his attention. He was rarely refused and often after completing his drawing, he would knock on the door again and give away his completed work.


Doris Boyd, Merric Boyd Coloured pencil 250 x 270 mm 1956

While some people who received Merric's sketches chose not to keep them, many others did, appreciating, or at the very least recognizing their special qualities. That so many survive with local residents and in collections elsewhere, is extremely fortunate. Merric Boyd was an artist in the truest sense, filled with an overwhelming need to express himself and with the ability to do so. The many drawings and ceramic works that survive him stand as testament to his genius.



Tree in landscape, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and Pencil 180 x 275 mm 1953

Hillside at sunset, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and crayon 180 x 250 mm 1949

Merric was generally well respected within the Murrumbeena community, not only by adults but also by local children. Many of them sat for, and received, his drawings. There were some people who saw the elderly Merric Boyd
as a silly old man and not worthy of respect. They were unaware of who he was and what he had achieved in his life, often in the face of great adversity. In particular, they were unaware of the epilepsy which had increasingly affected him during his latter years.



Merric Boyd in the brown room c. 1954


Merric Boyd died on the 9th September, 1959, at the age of seventy one at Murrumbeena. Doris died the following year. Open Country, the Boyd's family home and a place that been the centre and source of so much art and creativity, was also near the end of its time. Following Doris's death, Lucy and Hatton Boyd Beck returned from Brisbane to live in the house. There, they worked as artists and taught pottery. After they left for England, the house was demolished, in 1964, for the flats that stand there today.
Whether Open Country could have been renovated and become a museum or something similar can be debated; it was an old house in need of a great deal of work. But the fact remains that a great part of Australia's art heritage was lost when Number 8 Wahroongaa Crescent was pulled down.

Little remains today that records Merric Boyd and his family's time in Murrumbeena. Merric and Doris's home is gone, though Merric's parent's home at Number 4 Wahroongaa Crescent still stands. The Outer Circle Parkland, the source of so many of Merric's drawings is there, but the original post and rail fences, the horses, the creek and the little wooden bridges that crossed it, are long gone. The Arthur Merric Boyd (A.M.B.) Pottery, established by Arthur Boyd, John Perceval and Peter Herbst in 1944 in Neerim Road, is now a block of flats.


Looking along Dandenong Road, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and wash 250x 270 mm 1949

Untitled, Merric Boyd
Pencil and coloured pencil 180 x 240 mm 1951


The streets and footpaths of Murrumbeena that Merric Boyd walked are, of course, still there, as are many of the trees, shrubs and scenes he drew. One can walk these streets, and with a little effort, imagine Merric Boyd walking the same streets and drawing, imagine the little cottage with the wild garden that was his home, and imagine Murrumbeena as a young Merric Boyd knew it - a place of Open Country.

 


Open Country, Believed to be painted by Emma Minnie Boyd c. 1915


Gallery Of Merric Boyd Drawings




Trees and branches, Merric Boyd
Pencil and Coloured Pencil 250 x 270 mm 1952



The bush bird, Merric Boyd
Colour Pencil, Pencil and Wash 250 x 270 mm 1950

 


Untitled, Merric Boyd Pencil 240 x 278 mm 1950


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and waterclour 180 x 240 mm 1950

 


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and pencil 180 x 275 mm 1945


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and pencil 250 x 270 mm 1952

 


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and pencil 270 x 250 mm Undated


Out on the suburban local roads of Murrumbeena, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil 275 x 250 mm 1952

 


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Colour pencil, pencil and crayon with water 270 x 250 mm Undated


Untitled, Merric Boyd Watercolour 180 x 275 mm 1944


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Water colour, coloured pencil and wax 250 x 270 mm undated


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Water colour, coloured pencil and wax 250 x 270 mm undated


A Gum Tree, Merric Boyd
Colour pencil & wash 250 x 270 mm 1950

 


Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and pencil 250 x 270 mm 1950

Untitled, Merric Boyd
Coloured pencil and crayon with wash 250 x 270 mm undated

Up the Country, Merric Boyd
Crayon with wash and pencil 250 x 270 mm Undated



*** Other Web Sites By Us ***

Hatton Beck
Friedl Gardner : A Life In Family And Art
Doris Boyd : A Life In Family And Art

Lucy Boyd Beck : A Life In Family and Art
Jean Langley : Painter and Writer


This web site was conceived and written by Colin Smith, and developed by Paul Caine and Colin Smith 2004
Thank you to Lucy Boyd Beck and David Boyd for supporting, reviewing and approving this site
Thank you to Rob and Margot Beck for there assistance in the making of this site
All photographs have been reproduced with permission of Copyright Owners
* Photographed by Paul Caine

* * * * * *


Portrait of  Merric Boyd, John Perceval oil 310 x 250 mm  1947




 

 

 

 

 

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