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Record Image
Boyd, Arthur Merric Bloomfield (Australian, b.1920, d.1999), Artist
Nebuchadnezzar Running in the Rain
oil on canvas
1090 x 1140 mm stretcher size; 1170 x 1230 mm frame size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1968 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society.
The Dunedin Public Art Gallery collected Australian art until the late 1960s, when the increasing cultural confidence of the New Zealand art scene, and the escalating prices of Australasian works, promoted more nationally focused collecting. This work and Sidney Nolan’s, opposite, are cornerstones of the Gallery’s Australian collection.
Extending to 34 paintings between 1968 and 1971, the Nebuchadnezzar series began in response to the suicides of protesters who set themselves alight in opposition to the Vietnam War. Boyd does not comment directly on the Vietnam misadventure. Rather he locates urgent social realities in mythic images, ancient stories and a recognisably Australian landscape. The story here is that of Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient King of Babylon who captured Jerusalem and was, in the biblical account, expelled by God to the wilderness.
Fallen from power and reduced to a feral, scavenging life, Boyd’s Nebuchadnezzar is a strange monster, by turns froggish and dog-like, who lurches through a world of desert, jagged forest and Old Testament weather. Squeezed from the tube directly onto the canvas, and vigorously raked and whipped about, Boyd’s paint simultaneously evokes landscape (thick, claggy mud), atmosphere (a punishing downpour) and the tormented body of Nebuchadnezzar himself as he staggers onward through his seven-year ordeal. As an image of the human capacity for conflict and self-torment, Boyd’s Nebuchadnezzar seems at once timeless and fiercely topical.

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