Perhaps the most charged and challenging of Boyd’s work is the Nebuchadnezzar series produced between 1968 and 1971 about the ancient Babylonian king who captured and later destroyed Jerusalem. In the Biblical account, Nebuchadnezzar “…fell from grace for placing self-aggrandisement before God, and was banished to the wilderness for seven years.” (Arthur Boyd: Retrospective, AGNSW, Barry Pearce, 1993)
Boyd’s Nebuchadnezzar is a strange bewildered man, a fallen idol who transmutes into an animal-like creature and is forced to wander in a nightmarish and infinite wasteland harassed by lions, crows and other beasts.
This spectacular collection of work is said to have been inspired by Boyd’s witnessing of a self-immolation suicide on Hampstead Heath, near his home. The series is permeated with intense anger at the urgent political issues posed by the Vietnam War, simultaneously grappling with many of the psychological themes with which Boyd struggled throughout his career.