Arthur Boyd’s grandparents Emma Minnie (nee a’Beckett) and Arthur Merric Boyd were both accomplished and recognised artists, exhibiting at the Royal Academy in London and in various galleries in Melbourne. Arthur Merric was a traditional landscape painter affiliated with the Heidelberg school.
They were quite well off, with money inherited from parents and grandparents. They lived a genteel life of travel and art, owned property in the UK and in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. Emma Minnie was socially minded and active in helping the poor. She was very religious, shared bible stories, myths, legends and fairy tales with her children and grandchildren.
They had five children, the second being William Merric Boyd (Merric), known as the father of Australian studio pottery. He and his brothers and sisters were encouraged by their parents in the pursuit of art and music, in thinking of others and in helping the poor. Merric struggled with epilepsy throughout his life but was well loved and cared for by his family.
Open Country at Murrumbeena, in Melbourne was built in 1913 to Merric’s design on land purchased by his parents. It was a home, workplace and meeting ground for the Boyd family and many outstanding, creative individuals for thirty years. In 1915 Merric married Doris Gough, a quietly strong and determined woman, already a painter she became wife, mother and business manager. Merric and Doris had five children: Lucy, Arthur, Guy, David and Mary.
Visitors to Open Country included Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Yosl Bergner, John Perceval and many others. Merric’s parents, Emma Minnie and Arthur Merric Boyd and younger sister Helen, lived next door during the years of World War I and on the other side Doris’ mother built a house she called Green Pastures.
When Arthur Boyd and Yvonne Lennie married in 1945 they lived at Open Country, and Arthur’s first studio was built in the rambling garden from a modernist design by his cousin Robin Boyd. With their respective partners Arthur’s siblings, Lucy, Guy, David and Mary Boyd also lived at Open Country during the 1940s and 50s. There were visits to Martin Boyd at The Grange (the a’Beckett family home) where the more genteel aspects of the Boyd and a’Beckett heritage prevailed. Arthur and Yvonne Boyd lived at The Grange for a time in 1948-49 as did Mary (nee Boyd) and John Perceval in 1951.
In late 1959 Arthur, Yvonne and their children went to London. Within six months Arthur’s work was receiving great acclaim and being exhibited in major galleries.